ABUJA, Nigeria | Ahead of Nigeria election, opposition alleges ghost voters

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s main opposition party charged Thursday that the election commission has kept more than 1 million ghost voters on the national register, raising fears of vote rigging ahead of Saturday’s presidential election.

The electoral commission “did not in fact do a cleanup of the register of voters” before publishing it, Uche Secondus, chairman of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, told a news conference in the capital, Abuja.

“A sick narrative has emerged, one of systemic and systematic rigging, manipulation of the true record of the voters’ register and a cabal you can no longer trust with the trajectory and growth of democracy and nation,” he said.

He also alleged “a coordinated approach to register foreigners” as voters.

The People’s Democratic Party, whose presidential candidate is Atiku Abubakar, is Nigeria’s main opposition party. Allegations of ghost voters are bound to raise tensions in what is widely seen as a close contest between Abubakar, a former vice president, and President Muhammadu Buhari.

The electoral commission says 84 million people are registered to vote in this country of 190 million.

A spokesman for the electoral commission did not respond to requests for a comment.

The opposition and some election observers also have expressed concern about military deployments in part of southeastern Nigeria where separatists are active.

Buhari and Abubakar renewed a pledge for a peaceful poll on Wednesday. Both leaders vowed to contribute to a free and fair election in Africa’s most populous country and refrain from “religious incitement” or ethnic profiling.

The push for candidates to publicly renew their peace vow, first made in December, picked up in recent days after the governor of Kaduna state declared on television that anyone who came to Nigeria to intervene in the election “would go back in body bags.”

Buhari was elected to his first term in 2015, the first time in Nigerian history that an opposition party democratically won power, and his first few months in office were full of optimism.

But his government now faces widespread discontent over rising unemployment and insecurity in some parts of the country.

By Associated Press