Britain and US fear ‘political interference’ as Nigeria begins final poll count

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Britain and the United States have say there are signs that the final count for Nigeria’s presidential election is being subverted by “deliberate political interference”.

A joint statement said the countries would be “very concerned” by any attempts to undermine the independence of the electoral commission and distort the will of the Nigerian people.

The statement came just before the electoral commission began the official collation of votes from 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, in the presence of party representatives, national and international observers and media. The adding up of votes from all over Nigeria began yesterday about two hours later than scheduled.

For the first time in Nigeria’s history, a presidential vote appears too close to call, analysts have said of the high-stakes election.

The race has come down to a contest between president Goodluck Jonathan and former military dictator General Muhammadu Buhari.

Widespread rigging has marred many previous Nigerian elections and efforts to make it more difficult with new biometric cards have been spoiled in part by some failures of newly imported card readers.

A statement signed by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart, Philip Hammond said: “So far, we have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process. But there are disturbing indications that the collation process – where the votes are finally counted – may be subject to deliberate political interference.

“The governments of the United States and the United Kingdom would be very concerned by any attempts to undermine the independence of the Electoral Commission (INEC), or its chairman, Prof (Attahiru) Jega; or in any way distort the expressed will of the Nigerian people,” the statement said.

There was no immediate comment from Nigeria’s ruling party or government.