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Opposition claims irregularities in Nigeria's presidential election

Nigeria's defeated presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari (pictured) disputed the results of the country's April 16 vote Wednesday, alleging widespread irregularities across the southeast while urging calm in the wake of deadly post-election riots.

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AFP - The defeated opposition candidate in Nigeria's presidential polls Wednesday rejected the results, but urged calm amid a rush to help some 25,000 displaced by deadly post-election riots.

Authorities have spoken of many killed, but have refused to provide a death toll, saying it could spark reprisals and was bound to be inaccurate, with corpses burnt beyond recognition and claims that bodies were thrown in wells.

One government official, explaining authorities' reluctance to release a death toll, said, "I wouldn't like to use the term massacre... some places it was terrible."

There were reports of fresh clashes in one area of the state of Kaduna overnight, with a community leader telling a local radio station that "the killing was unbelievable and the destruction is colossal."

Those displaced were taking refuge in police and military barracks, with curfews and military patrols appearing to have brought an uneasy calm to many areas. Police were saying little about the violence.

A spokesman for the national emergency management agency said help was being hurriedly organised for the displaced after the Red Cross warned that slow arrival of aid was causing anger to build.

The Red Cross has so far counted some 375 people wounded in the violence that began sporadically in the country's mainly Muslim north over the weekend before spreading to some 14 states on Monday.

It has also said there were many dead but has been unable to give a number.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is roughly divided in half between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.

Authorities have however argued that the rioting was not religious or ethnic in nature and had instead been instigated by those unhappy with the results of Saturday's election, won by incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.

Mobs had roamed the streets with machetes and clubs, pulling people out of cars and setting homes on fire. Reprisal attacks further intensified the situation.

The main opposition candidate in the vote, ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday alleged widespread irregularities in Saturday's election, but urged calm and said he would pursue his claims through legal means.

"In the (Niger Delta region) and the southeast, there were no elections and our supporters weren't allowed to vote," he told Voice of America radio's Hausa-language service.

He added however that "I urge people to calm down and be law-abiding as we are pursuing these irregularities with (the electoral commission) with a view to ensure justice for them."

Jonathan, the first president from the southern oil-producing Niger Delta region, was declared late Monday winner of a landmark vote that exposed regional tensions and led to the deadly rioting.

He took 57 percent of the ballots, easily beating Buhari, his northern rival, who had 31 percent.

Amid the violence, Jonathan announced Tuesday he was suspending his interior minister but did not explain why.

While the initial rioting began over allegations that Jonathan's party had sought to rig the vote, the situation appeared to be more complex in some instances.

In a couple of remote areas of the state of Kaduna, residents alleged on local radio that Christians initiated the violence, leading to clashes that the police were unable to control.

Despite the post-poll violence, observers have hailed the conduct of the vote as a major step forward for a nation with a history of violent and deeply flawed elections, while noting serious problems remained.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated Jonathan, saying it marked a "positive new beginning" for Africa's largest oil producer.

"This historic event marks a dramatic shift from decades of failed elections," she said, though cautioning that the process was "far from perfect."
 

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