Nigerians have voted in governorship and state assembly elections, the second poll in a fortnight, as monitors expressed concerns about political violence, vote-buying and an increased military presence.
Saturday’s election comes two weeks after Muhammadu Buhari secured a second term in a delayed presidential vote, and is expected to be contentious in some areas.
The country’s two top political parties are vying for control of powerful states that in certain cases have larger budgets than some African nations.
The Situation Room, an umbrella organization of more than 70 civil society monitoring groups, warned about an “escalation of violence between and within political parties and their supporters” during Saturday’s voting. In several states the “partisanship of security agencies” and “an intimidating presence of military personnel,” was a concern the group said, reporting that military fighter jets had been deployed in parts of the country.
Heavy military deployment was reported in Rivers state in Nigeria’s restive south.
Buhari reelected as Nigeria’s president: Electoral commission
Buhari will be expecting to consolidate his victory on February 23, when he won 19 states to secure a second, four-year term of office. His All Progressives Congress (APC) currently controls 22 states while the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 13. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has one.
Elections for governors were held in 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states, for all state assemblies, along with the administrative councils in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.
Polling stations opened at 07:00 GMT and closed at 13:00 GMT, with results expected early next week.
Local officials confirmed to The Associated Press news agency the burning of electoral facilities in Benue and Ebonyi states. Observers note scattered reports of thuggery or suspected underage voters.
And Nigeria’s top anti-corruption agency says it has intercepted “bags of cash meant for vote-buying”.
The queues outside polling centres in the capital Abuja were shorter compared to two weeks ago when voters cast their ballots in the presidential poll.
President Buhari’s win challenged by Nigeria’s opposition
“People are not coming out to vote because they are disappointed with the outcome of the presidential election and that has affected the turnout of today’s election,” Obinna Okeke, a businessman, told Al Jazeera.
Many of the voters said they found the voting process easier compared to previous elections.
“It was easy to vote today. People are not many today as compared to the previous elections. The card reader worked smoothly when I was getting accredited,” Edidiong Bassey, a 35-year-old civil servant, told Al Jazeera.
Governors are powerful and influential figures in Nigeria’s federal politics, controlling state finances, giving them responsibility for key areas including education to health.
With so much at stake, many previous governorship elections have been marred by violence, including shootings and armed gangs snatching ballot boxes.
Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), beat Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in last month’s presidential election with 15.2 million votes to 11.3 million, though on a turnout of just 35.6 percent.
State-level elections are often predicted to broadly mirror presidential polling and this year comes amid concerns about the role of security forces during the vote.
During the presidential and parliamentary polling, there were reports of violence, vote-buying, voter intimidation and ballot box vandalism in some states.
At least 53 people were killed, according to the Situation Room which said safety fears contributed to a low turnout.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts
KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation…
KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation for the society’s aid to the Vietnamese Embassy during the coronavirus crisis.
The ambassador added that they discussed providing his country with aid to face the impact of the recent floods and landslides, considered to be the worst in decades. Sayer said he was pleased with the ambassador’s visit and affirmed that KRCS will continue exerting humanitarian efforts to aid those affected by natural disasters and crises everywhere. – KUNA
Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID
File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the…
File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel
After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the government sector who were being laid off.
As part of its Kuwaitization policy, Kuwait is replacing expats with locals in the government sector. The government has also stopped issuing work permits to expats over 60 years of age without a university degree. These new rules have had a huge impact on the lives of thousands of expats in the country, leaving many with no choice but to pack their bags and leave.
Gulf countries are facing an exodus of foreign workers as the coronavirus pandemic pushes out foreign workers. In the midst of the COVID-19 and financial crunch, the National Assembly approved a draft law to slash expat numbers over the next five years.
As the budget deficit widens and economic conditions worsen, Kuwait is grappling with an economic downturn as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world. The combined shock of collapsing oil prices, the pandemic and joblessness is reshaping labor policies in the region, thus bringing anti-foreigner sentiments to the fore again.
While Kuwait’s expats struggle to secure their jobs, the government is calling for an increase in workforce nationalization in government entities. “Why will foreigners take the jobs meant for us (Kuwaitis)? They can work anywhere – but not in the ministries,” argued Abdullah, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti.
Buttressing Abdullah’s viewpoint, Fatma, an unemployed Kuwaiti woman, complained of the difficulty in competing with foreign workers for jobs in the private sector. “Foreign workers can work longer for less, unlike us Kuwaitis. So most companies prefer to hire non-Kuwaitis. This leaves us with only one sector (the public sector). I think this is why the government introduced Kuwaitization, so as to give unemployed Kuwaitis an opportunity,” she explained.
For Lyon, justice and fairness should override anti-expat sentiments. “It is understandable that ministries would give preference to locals for jobs during these tough times, but it would be fair to consider the efforts of the old staff who have put in their best to build this country,” Lyon, 61, and some of his co-workers who were laid off recently lamented, as they worry about their future.
Expats make up the majority of the population of Kuwait. Residency is tied to employment and Kuwait does not easily offer citizenship routes to non-nationals. “We have been here (in Kuwait) legally for over 20 years. It will be difficult to go back and start afresh in our home countries. More so, Kuwait’s residency is linked to the work permit – when you lose your job, you automatically lose your residency. I worry about my children who are still in school. The three-month notice will not be enough to relocate them,” Mustapha, an Egyptian expat who recently lost his job, said in dismay.
Abdurazak Hamad, an African expat, is in a dilemma. “I feel miserable leaving my family behind. I don’t want to go alone, but I can’t make my wife quit her KD 450 job since she is now the sole breadwinner. Starting afresh in my home country at this age (62) will be very difficult. I wish I can get a permit (residency) to stay here with my family,” said Hamad, who was recently sacked.
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