Lagos, Nigeria CNN —
Nigeria’s main opposition parties are calling for fresh elections, describing results currently being announced by electoral body as “heavily doctored and manipulated,” in a joint press conference in the capital, Abuja.
They said their parties would no longer be part of the ongoing collation process in the capital Abuja and added they had lost confidence in the electoral body Chairman Mahmood Yakubu, said a joint statement from the Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party, and African Democratic Congress in Abuja on Tuesday.
The parties called for new polls to be held under a new chairman for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“We call on the international community to note that the results being declared at the National Collation Centre have been heavily doctored and manipulated and do not reflect the wishes of Nigerians expressed at the polls on February 25, 2023,” they said.
INEC on Tuesday rejected those calls. In a statement sent to CNN, chief press secretary Rotimi Oyekanmi insisted that “results emanating from the States point to a free, fair and credible process.”
“It is only fair for the aggrieved parties to allow the conclusion of the process and approach the courts with their evidence,” Oyekanmi added.
The election process has been dogged with controversy, and the announcement at the national collation center in Abuja has seen some tense moments, with opposition party members walking out of the collation center as the results were being announced Monday.
Several observers including the European Union have said the election fell short of expectations and “lacked transparency.”
“The election fell well short of Nigerian citizens’ reasonable expectations,” said a joint observer mission of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Samson Itodo, the head of Yiaga Africa - Nigeria’s largest independent election monitoring body – echoed worries, saying there was “serious cause for concern” about the election, but encouraged Nigerians to continue to engage in the political process.
Itodo told CNN’s Zain Asher in an interview Tuesday that three critical issues hampered election trust: violence, technical issues, and logistics. His organization deployed 3,836 observers across the Nigeria for the election.
“I would strongly encourage for Nigerians that yes - the election is still in progress. It has not been concluded. There is still a possibility of a runoff. And so we should continue to walk together. We should continue to engage the political process,” he also said.
Ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu is so far leading the race with nearly half of the vote already tallied Tuesday, according to the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) results.
23 out of 36 states have declared their results at state level. The leading opposition party PDP’s Atiku Abubakar is in second place, according to INEC figures.
Despite his shock win over Tinubu on his home turf in Lagos State, Peter Obi, the much-touted ‘third force’ candidate is trailing in third place.
According to INEC’s iRev results portal, 83.798 out of 176.846 polling units have submitted their results.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was also among those who have criticized the electoral process in a strongly-worded letter late Monday where he alleged results had been doctored.
But the government warned him not to truncate the elections with “his inciting, self-serving and provocative letter on the elections,” in a statement from Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.
APC has however dismissed Obasanjo’s allegations as “frivolous, unfounded, and baseless,” emphasizing that the former leader did not offer any evidence to back up his claims that the electoral technology was manipulated.
APC blasted Obasanjo’s statement as tantamount to “subtly calling” for “a coup against democracy and the constitution.”
The party acknowledged Tinubu’s loss in his stronghold state of Lagos and questioned Obasanjo’s queries into the outcome.
INEC meanwhile continues to announce results coming in, despite the criticism of the commission.
Meanwhile Yakubu asked any candidate with complaints to seek redress in the courts during a results announcement in Abuja Monday.
Yakubu says he plans to continue with results announcement despite complaints.