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Cablegate: Nigeria: Pdp Wins Fct by-Elections

VZCZCXYZ0020
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUJA #0715/01 1081418
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171418Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2620
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0216
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 9094
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS ABUJA 000715

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, INR/AA
DOE FOR GEORGE PERSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: PDP WINS FCT BY-ELECTIONS

REF: ABUJA 686

1.(SBU) Summary: Fresh elections were held April 5 and 6 in
the Nigerian Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for the region's
sole Senate seat and one of its two House of Representatives
constituencies. The Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) announced that both races were won by the
ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a reversal of the 2007
general election in which the All Nigerian Peoples Party
(ANPP) took both seats. Allegations of ballot theft on the
eve of the election caused INEC to delay polling in Abuja
town to from April 5 to April 6. The delay may have
contributed to the low turnout, which even according to
INEC's own figures was less than 11%. The FCT by-election,
similar to that in Kogi one week earlier (reftel), was
"business as usual" for INEC and the parties, demonstrating
that high-level talk of reform has not yet had much impact on
the conduct of elections in Nigeria. End Summary.

2. (U) The election tribunal in Abuja annulled the elections
of FCT Senator Jubril Usman Wowo (ANPP) and Representive
Nasir Mohammed (ANPP, Abuja/Bwari Federal Constituency) on
September 29, 2007. Both elections were overturned on
grounds that candidates of other political parties had been
unlawfully excluded from contesting the April 2007 general
elections. The tribunal decisions were upheld on appeal and
fresh polls were ordered for April 5.

3. (U) Election day got off to a bad start when an ANPP
polling agent claimed to witness INEC officials secretly
moving cartons of ballot papers out of an Abuja distribution
center in the early hours of April 5. Several opposition
parties raised the alarm, claiming that up to 28,000 ballot
papers were missing. INEC officials denied the allegation,
but they decided to postpone voting within the Abuja
municipality by one day, to April 6, while they investigated.
INEC later reported that they spent eight hours on April 5
checking supplies and that all the materials were intact.
However, one INEC official said it was difficult to confirm
whether ballots were missing since they were not serial
numbered.

4. (U) The FCT is normally quiet on the weekend, but it was
especially so on both April 5 and 6, and for a casual
observer it was possible not to notice that an election was
even taking place. Political section locally engaged staff
observed polling places in Kubwa and Gwarimpa, both large
working class communities on the outskirts of Abuja, on April
5. In both areas, election materials were distributed on
time and voting commenced peacefully at 9:00 am. However,
there seemed to be little public interest in voting. Polling
stations were generally quiet and observed turnout was less
than 5%. Some of the voters complained to embassy staff that
voting was a waste of time, noting that "INEC staff and the
government would declare candidates of their choice (as
winners) at the end of the day." By 4:00 pm, all observed
stations had closed and finished counting their results.

5. (U) After the conclusion of voting in Abuja town on April
6, INEC declared Adamu Sidi Ali (PDP) the winner in the FCT
Senate race with 46,736 votes, defeating Solomon Wowo (ANPP)
with 28,118 votes. In the House of Representatives race,
INEC announced that the PDP candidate Phillip Aduda won with
19,734 votes to ANPP candidate Nasiru Mohammed's 6,653 votes.
Voter turnout was low (11% for the Senate race, 6% for the
House seat) even according to INEC's reported figures.
Opposition parties, including the ANPP which lost both seats,
complain that the election was marred by ballot box stuffing
and voter intimidation by the ruling party.

6. (SBU) Comment: Voter interest in the FCT by-election was
low to begin with, but the one-day delay of polling within
Abuja town probably also contributed to the low turnout. It
is disappointing that even in a low-turnout election in
Nigeria's relatively orderly capital, INEC was still accused
of giving ballots to the ruling party and was forced to delay
voting in Abuja until Sunday. Allegations of ballot theft,
which are nearly impossible to verify due to lack of serial
numbers, are especially troubling given the complete reversal
of the general election results shifting both the Senate and
House seats from the opposition ANPP to the ruling PDP. It
seems that the FCT by-election, similar to that in Kogi one
week earlier (reftel), was "business as usual" for INEC,
demonstrating that high-level talk of reform has not yet had
much impact on the conduct of elections in Nigeria. End
Comment.
SANDERS

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