Liberians go to the polls on Tuesday to select either former international footballer George Weah or Vice President Joseph Boakai as their new president, in a vote that analysts say is too close to call.
After seven weeks of delays caused by legal challenges against the country’s electoral commission lodged by Boakai’s party, polling stations will open at 8:00 am (0800 GMT) for the West African nation’s 2.1 million voters.
They will choose a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is stepping down after serving 12 years as Africa’s first elected female leader, representing Liberia’s only democratic transfer of power since 1944.
Trucks filled with voting materials were escorted by police around the capital Monrovia on Monday, after leaving the offices of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), which has rushed to clean the national voter register to avoid allegations of fraud.
“For three days now I have not closed my eyes. We are making sure that nothing goes wrong because this election is a crucial one,” a stressed-looking policeman said.
Both contenders have already announced they are confident of victory but the final result is not expected to be known for a few days.
From pitch to palace?
In the first round of voting on October 10, Weah topped the poll with 38.4 percent while Boakai came second with 28.8 percent, triggering a run-off as neither made it past the 50 percent needed to win outright.
Boakai then accused the NEC of fraud and incompetence grave enough to have affected the vote, delaying proceedings while the complaints were analysed by the Supreme Court. His party’s arguments were ultimately rejected.
Whoever wins the delayed vote faces an economy battered by lower commodity prices for its main exports of rubber and iron ore, and a rapidly depreciating currency.
Both candidates have been accused of offering vague platforms, beyond assurances on free education and investment in infrastructure and agriculture.
As Liberia’s most famous son, Weah attracts huge crowds and has a faithful youth following in a country where a fifth of the electorate is aged 18 to 22, but he is criticized for his long absences from the Senate, where he has served since 2014.
Weah’s endorsement by warlord-turned-preacher Prince Johnson, who is extremely popular in the populous county of Nimba, may boost his chances, while he was pictured at a public event with Sirleaf on Thursday, heightening speculation a feud with Boakai has pushed her to support his opponent.
“You know I’ve been in competitions — tough ones too and I came out victorious. So I know Boakai cannot defeat me,” Weah said on Saturday. “I have the people on my side.”
Weah has also polled well in Bong county, the fiefdom of Liberian warlord and former president Charles Taylor and his ex-wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor, who is the former footballer’s vice-presidential pick.
Charles Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence in Britain for war crimes committed in neighboring Sierra Leone, but his presence has loomed over the election.
‘We cannot feast’
Vice President Boakai meanwhile is seen as a continuity candidate and has won praise for his public service stretching back four decades, when many elites fled Liberia for the United States.
Boakai said Sunday he was “very, very confident” of winning: “Victory is mine”.
While ordinary Liberians are grateful peace has held through Sirleaf’s two terms in office, living standards remain dire for most.
She guided the nation out of ruin following back-to-back 1989-2003 civil wars and through the horrors of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis, but is accused of failing to combat poverty and tackle corruption.
Both issues have been a focus of the campaign, giving Boakai a difficult path to tread after serving at her side.
He faces accusations the government did too little on graft and focused on seeking donor funds rather than tackling issues at home.
The election date finally chosen in Christian-majority Liberia has sowed fears of lower turnout in a country where many travel long distances to see family, and alcohol flows particularly freely at Christmas time.
“Because of the election we will not really enjoy Christmas this year. We cannot feast now because we have to go vote tomorrow. We have to postpone the Christmas celebration to another date,” complained Emmanuel Johnson, 27.
Nigeria: Woman arrested over Outrageous Viral video of her abusing a child
Police in Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos have arrested a woman filmed abusing a child and then locking him in a caged kennel with dogs.
It is not clear when the footage was shot, but it went viral on Twitter earlier this month.
In the video clip, a woman is seen beating a boy, stripped to his waist, with a belt. She then drags him into an empty kennel and locks it before walking away. Two dogs can be seen in other neighbouring kennels.
The video caused outrage on social media, where shocked users offered rewards to anyone that could track down the woman.
On Thursday, a police spokesperson, Dolapo Badmos, tweeted that the woman in the video had been arrested.
“The suspect is in custody and will be charged to court… The boy, who happens to be an orphan, has been rescued and kept in a shelter provided by Lagos state government,” she said.
Her tweet links to a video filmed by police showing the dog kennels where the boy was locked up:
Nigeria: Imo recovery team storms Okorocha’s premises, recover alleged looted state property
Okorocha Faults Action
Imo State Recovery of Moveable Assets Committee, yesterday, stormed a premises belonging to the immediate past governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, where it discovered properties suspected to be that of the State Government, but allegedly parked in the premises known as All In Warehouse, located on Aba Road, Owerri.
But the Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Ladodo, who arrived the scene laced with crowd, directed that the property should be put in custody of the police. Some of the items included furniture, clothing materials and others.
The chairman of the committee, Ndubuaku, said the committee received credible intelligence information that led to them to storm the premises. He pronounced sealing of the place, directing that nobody, including the Okorochas, should enter the premises till further notice. Ndubuaku said the committee would ensure that all the State Government property illegally stolen were recovered.
But Okorocha, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser (Media), Sam Onwueneodo, described the action of the State Government as unjustifiable.
“This is to inform all men and women of goodwill, that barely two days after the agents of the Economic & Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, had marked the ALL – IN SHOP owned by the wife of the former governor, Dr. Mrs. Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha, located at Naze near Owerri, for investigation also following flood of petitions written to the Commission by PDP government in the State, the leader and members of the government’s Committee on the Recovery of Government Property invaded the shop today (yesterday) July 26, 2019, and looted the goods there, including the ones inside the containers inside the premises.
“We had told all those, who cared to hear us, that the PDP government in the State is out for witch-hunting just to intimidate Opponents, otherwise why invading and looting a Shop with furniture and baby goods, already marked for investigation by the EFCC.
“And the Containers they looted have been in the premises of the shop before the EFCC agents came and marked the Shop for investigation last Tuesday; they are still there before the Jasper Ndubuaku-led gang invaded the place. The question now is, what if at the end of the day, the EFCC’s investigation establishes that this shop has no relationship with the last administration?
“Obviously, Jasper Ndubuka and his gang are not recovering any property but are on looting spree. They were the ones, who petitioned to EFCC and they came and marked the investments they had mentioned in their petitions for investigation. Then, why going to loot the same establishments marked by EFCC for investigation? If Governor Ihedioha had asked question and if he meant well, he would not have entrusted such sensitive task into the hands of a man like Jasper Ndubuaku.
“Nigerians should watch closely the brigandage going on in Imo. Leaders and members of the so-called Government’s Property Recovery Committee are just having the licence to loot with the protection of the State Government. Otherwise, why won’t they allow the EFCC to conclude their investigation?”
“We have been shouting for the world to hear our voice. Aside their inviting the EFCC, we have asked them to publish whatever they have against Rochas Okorocha and the family or anybody that served in the Rescue Mission government, but they have not been forthcoming. The implication of all these is that, where restraint is not applied and the governor cannot control the recklessness, self-help may be the last resort; nobody should be blamed.”