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The Latest: Nigeria ruling party rejects rigging accusation

Electoral officials compile voting results at a collation center in Yola, n Nigeria, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Vote counting continued Sunday as Nigerians awaited the outcome of a presidential poll seen as a tight race between the president and a former vice president. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

KANO, Nigeria (AP) — The Latest on Nigeria’s election (all times local):

9:25 p.m.

Nigeria’s ruling party is dismissing the main opposition’s claims of vote-rigging, accusing it of trying to “discredit and destabilize” the election process while results are announced state by state.

The party backing opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar has alleged ruling party agents hacked into the electoral commission’s server and manipulated election results. It has rejected election results as “incorrect, thus unacceptable.”

The ruling party said in a statement on Monday that the electoral commission “has done a good job despite the challenges” of conducting an election for some 73 million eligible voters. President Muhammadu Buhari has taken an early lead in results.

The spokesman of the ruling party’s campaign council, Festus Keyamo, says that “our elections have progressed over the years and we ask that the (opposition) do not derail us to the dark past with its childish antics.”

He also urges Nigerians to be patient. Final results are expected Tuesday or Wednesday.

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6:50 p.m.

Nigeria’s leading opposition party is rejecting the presidential election results being announced by the electoral commission as “incorrect, thus unacceptable.”

Party chairman Uche Secondus accuses ruling party agents of hacking into the electoral commission’s server and manipulating results. The ruling party hasn’t publicly responded.

President Muhammadu Buhari so far has won six of Nigeria’s 36 states, while challenger Atiku Abubakar has won the territory that includes the capital, Abuja.

At stake is Africa’s most populous country and largest economy. Final results are expected Tuesday or Wednesday.

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5:05 p.m.

The United States ambassador to Nigeria is praising the country on its presidential election, saying that “the peaceful achievement of millions was overshadowed by the violence of a few.”

At least 39 people were reported killed in election-related violence as Africa’s largest democracy voted on Saturday.

Ambassador Stuart Symington’s statement urges all candidates to honor the pledges they signed to contribute to a peaceful election and accept the results. He calls on candidates to warn supporters against using violence to interfere with the electoral commission, which has begun announcing results from Nigeria’s 36 states.

He adds that “no one should … break the peace by claiming victory before the results are final.”

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4:15 p.m.

A large Nigerian observer mission says it expects there will be no need for a runoff presidential election because a “clear winner will emerge,” though no candidate is expected to receive more than 55 percent of votes.

The Africa’s Watching the Vote project deployed more than 3,900 observers for Saturday’s election throughout Africa’s largest democracy.

Its statement says only Nigeria’s electoral commission can announce the final results. It projects that election turnout dropped to between 36 and 40 percent, down from just below 44 percent in the previous election in 2015.

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3:45 p.m.

Nigeria’s electoral commission has begun announcing official presidential results from the country’s 36 states in a process that will take hours and could extend into Tuesday or beyond.

President Muhammadu Buhari has won in the states of Ekiti, Osun and Kwara in the west and southwest while top challenger Atiku Abubakar has won the Federal Capital Territory, the name of the state that encompasses Abuja.

To win the presidency, a candidate must garner a majority of overall votes as well as at least 25 percent of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states. If that isn’t achieved, the election moves to a runoff.

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2:40 p.m.

More election observers are criticizing the late opening of polls in many areas of Nigeria in Saturday’s presidential election, saying those delays and a weeklong postponement discouraged many people from voting.

The European Union and other observers are issuing their first statements on the vote that has been described as generally peaceful, though at least 39 deaths were reported.

The Commonwealth observers call the violence “deeply troubling” and say Africa’s largest democracy can do better.

Official results are expected as early as Monday as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term in the nation of some 190 million people.

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1:55 p.m.

Nigeria’s air force asserts that it has “neutralized” dozens of fighters with the Islamic State West Africa Province extremist group in the northeast near Lake Chad.

A statement says airstrikes were carried out on Sunday, a day after the country’s presidential election. The statement says the airstrikes occurred as fighters met in Kolloram in Borno state.

The statement could not immediately be independently confirmed.

The IS in West Africa Province group is a recent offshoot of the Boko Haram extremist insurgency, which has killed well over 20,000 people in the course of a decade. Nigeria’s government recently acknowledged a “resurgence” by the fighters as they attack and overrun military bases.

Insecurity is a major issue in the election as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term.

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1:20 p.m.

An observer mission from the United States is critical of the delays in Nigeria’s election.

A joint statement by the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute issued Monday said that “the last-minute postponement of the election by INEC (Nigeria’s electoral commission) and significant delays in the opening of polling units risk undermining citizen confidence in elections and disenfranchising voters.”

The election was originally scheduled for Feb. 16 but then, just hours before polls were to open, the election was postponed a week, citing numerous logistical issues. When voting took place on Feb. 23 there were numerous delays causing many polling stations to open hours late. Some polling stations had to remain open a day later in order to allow people in line to vote.

The U.S.-based observers noted that Nigeria’s major political parties remain the weak link in ensuring an inclusive election process and have issued worrisome statements.

The observers said that despite the voting issues, Nigerians have showed resilience and patience.

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Nigeria is counting votes in its presidential election and observers are giving mixed assessments of the process.

The African Union said the “overall political climate remained largely peaceful and conducive for the conducting of credible elections” but criticized poor preparation and called for calm until final results.

That could happen as early as Monday as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term in Africa’s most populous country.

A nationwide civil society platform of observers issued a more critical statement citing “major logistic lapses” including widespread delays and “disappointing” conduct by political parties. It called this election a step back from the one in 2015, seen as one of Nigeria’s most transparent and efficient.

The Situation Room platform said at least 39 people were killed in violence related to Saturday’s vote.

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Follow AP’s full coverage of the Nigeria elections here: https://www.apnews.com/Nigeria

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