Nigeria's Atiku, supporters march to protest presidential election results

FILE PHOTO: Nigerian opposition party candidate Abubakar votes in home state

By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar on Monday led hundreds of supporters in a peaceful protest over the electoral commission's handling of last month's disputed vote which the commission says was won by ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu.

Atiku and senior members of the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) led placard-holding supporters during a march to the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the federal capital Abuja where they handed in a petition.

INEC's results showed that Tinubu won the Feb. 25 election with 37% of the vote against Atiku's 29%, while Labour Party's Peter Obi polled 25%. Atiku and Obi have rejected the results, however, and plan to launch a legal challenge.

"All the provisions of the current electoral law have been completely contravened. We have the right to protest under the constitution, and it doesn't stop us from going to court," Atiku, who wore a black T-shirt and jeans, told supporters outside the electoral commission's offices.

A PDP official handed the petition to an INEC official.

In the petition, which was seen by Reuters, PDP rejected the outcome of the election and asked INEC to explain why it proceeded to declare results after the party had raised concerns about alleged irregularities during the collation of the results.

INEC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

PDP supporters in black wielded placards reading: "Nigerians have lost confidence in INEC", "INEC Chairman must go", and "The 2023 general election results do not reflect the will of the Nigerian people."

Armed police with tear gas canisters stood nearby.

Election observers from the European Union, the Commonwealth and other bodies reported a range of problems, among them failures in systems designed to prevent vote manipulation.

The observers criticised INEC for poor planning and voting delays, but they did not allege fraud. The commission itself apologised for the technical problems during the count.

INEC results from the Feb. 25 vote also showed on Monday that the ruling APC had won the most seats in the Senate and House of Representatives, which would enable Tinubu to pass legislation and national budgets without needing the support of the opposition.

Nigerians will return to the polls on Saturday to elect state governors in 28 of the country's 36 states as well as state house of assembly members.

(Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Hugh Lawson)