Roman Catholic Bishops in Nigeria are warning that the nation is “standing at the edge of a dangerous precipice” following presidential elections this week. They are calling on Nigerians to remain calm and prayerful.
On Wednesday, Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) declared that ruling party candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu won the presidential contest. His victory was met with a message of congratulations from British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
"The UK-Nigeria relationship remains strong. I look forward to working together to grow our security and trade ties”, he said on Twitter.
Official results indicate the 70-year-old veteran politician got 37 per cent of the vote, while his main rival Atiku Abubakar polled 29 per cent, and Labour's Peter Obi 25 per cent.
But the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria say there were flaws in how the Electoral Commission ran the contest and how a new electoral law was applied.
“In many places, the human element is alleged to have compromised the gains that were expected”, said Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, President of the Bishops’ Conference.
In a statement he said "the delay in the electronic transmission of the results of the polling units before their announcement at the collation centers raised suspicion in many minds about the transparency of the entire process."
“There is, therefore, palpable tension in the air and agitations not just by some political parties but by a cross-section of the Nigerian population,” the archbishop added.
The two leading opposition candidates also dismissed the poll as a sham and are demanding a rerun.
President-elect Tinubu based his campaign on his record of rebuilding the biggest city, Lagos, when he was governor. He is one of Nigeria's richest politicians.
He was nevertheless defeated in the city by Mr Obi, who succeeded in mobilising the support of many young people, especially in urban areas, despite being a relative newcomer to politics.
In his statement, Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji urged the Electoral Commission to taken steps to address the issues of concern and to diffuse the tension.
The bishops also urged restraint on the part of political parties, “while we all give INEC the time to prove that it is still worthy of our trust. INEC must live above board to avoid plunging the nation into an avoidable crisis.”