ONITSHA, Nigeria (Reuters) - At least seven people were killed in shoot-outs and other attacks after a tribunal annulled the election of the governor of Nigeria’s eastern Taraba state and replaced him with a ruling party candidate, police said.
Attackers shot sporadically and set fire to buildings on Sunday, a day after the announcement of the order that Darius Ishaku, a Christian from the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, had not legally won an April vote, police added.
The State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal said the lawful winner was Hajia Aisha Alhassan, a Muslim from the ruling All Progressives Congress, making her Nigeria’s first female governor.
There was no immediate detail on the identity of the attackers.
Taraba is part of Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” where its largely Christian south and mostly Muslim north meet, making it a flashpoint for violence often over land disputes between semi-nomadic, cattle-keeping communities, who tend to be Muslim, and settled farming people, who are often Christian.
Governors are some of the most influential politicians in Nigeria and run budgets larger than some small nations. With such high stakes, elections often bring violence and accusations of vote rigging.
Sunday’s violence had focused on the state’s Wukari area, Taraba state police spokesman Joseph Kwaji said. “Seven people were killed and 15 injured while some houses were burnt,” he added.
Elections this year brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power and gave his All Progressives Congress control over most of the states, ending years of domination by the Peoples’ Democratic Party.
In Taraba, which borders Cameroon, the tribunal chairman said Ishaku was not a valid candidate because the PDP had not held a primary in the state.
Volatile Rivers state may also hold a re-run after a court declared the election results void. The PDP candidate, Wike Nyesom, who was declared the winner in April, will appeal against the ruling.
Reporting By Anamesere Igboeroteonwu; Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Writing by Julia Payne; Editing by Andrew Heavens