Nigeria election: Partial extension of voting to Sunday

voting

Elections in parts of Nigeria have been extended until Sunday after delays and a number of attacks.

The delays were “not widespread” but were still “a matter of concern”, an election official told the BBC.

Technical problems with new biometric cards slowed down voter registration, even affecting President Goodluck Jonathan.

More than 20 people have reportedly been killed in various attacks by unknown gunmen.

Mr Jonathan is facing a strong challenge from Muhammadu Buhari.

The election is said to be the most closely fought since independence.

It was postponed from mid-February to allow the army time to recapture territory from the Islamist militants of Boko Haram.

The two main candidates had pledged to prevent violence during and in the aftermath of the elections.

But several hours after voting started, reports came in of violent incidents at polling stations in which at least 24 were reported to have been killed.

President Jonathan registers to vote after problems with the biometric card reader, 28 March 2015
After some problems with the electronic card reader, President Jonathan was finally registered manually and has now cast his vote
Gen Muhammadu Buhari arriving in his home town Daura, voting card in hand, 28 March 2015
Gen Muhammadu Buhari arriving to register in his home town Daura, voting card in hand

Voters are also electing members of the house of representatives and the senate.

According to the Transitional Monitoring Group (TMG), the largest body observing the elections, voting had started in 75% of polling stations, while 92% had the materials they need to start the process.

Voters need to register using biometric cards with their fingerprints before they can cast their vote.

However, at some polling stations, card readers are working slowly or not at all.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) said the accreditation process had “gone on well in several places”, but was “slow” or had “not commenced at all” in others.

Voter Jibrin at polling station outside Abuja, 28 March 2015
At a polling station outside Abuja, voter Jibrin says he would wait all day and night to cast his vote
Queue of voters at Yola polling station on Nigerian election day, 28 March 2015
Many voters had to queue for hours just to register

President Jonathan tried for some 50 minutes to register in his home village of Otuoke, before coming back a second time. When the electronic registration failed again, he had to be accredited manually and did eventually cast his ballot paper.

Problems were also reported from the north’s biggest city of Kano, where thousands of voters waited for election officials and voting materials to arrive.

“No-one has shown up from Inec… This is a deliberate attempt to sabotage the elections,” Ismail Omar, a 65-year-old builder, told AFP news agency.

Gen Buhari did not have any problems registering in his hometown Daura.

After voting, he told the BBC the process was “in order but I have been watching activities in other states, which is disappointing, but overall it’s on course”.

Nigeria at a glance:

A Nigerian voter poses for a photo with a newly acquired permanent voters card - February 2015
  • Two main presidential candidates:

Muhammadu Buhari, All Progressives Congress (APC), Muslim northerner, ex-military ruler, fourth presidential bid

Goodluck Jonathan, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Christian southerner, incumbent president, second-term bid

  • Years of military rule ended in 1999 and the PDP has been in power ever since
  • Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and leading oil producer
  • With a population of more than 170m, it is also Africa’s most populous nation

Although Inec announced the extension, its spokesman Nick Dazan told the BBC the extent of the problems was not yet known.

Attacks were reported in north-eastern Gombe state, including incidents where gunmen opened fire on voters at polling stations.

It is unclear whether the attacks are the work of Boko Haram militants or political thugs. Boko Haram had threatened to disrupt the poll.

However, Mr Jonathan told the BBC’s Peter Okwoche that most of the violence in Gombe was not directly related to the elections.

“The war against terrorists is going on, voting or no voting,” he said. “There was a conflict, kind of a crossfire, between soldiers and terrorists that had nothing to do with the elections.”

Meanwhile, a soldier was killed in an ambush near the southern oil hub of Port Harcourt, the military says.

In other incidents:

  • The Inec website was briefly hacked by a group calling itself the Nigeria Cyber Army, which warned the body not to rig the elections
  • There was a controlled car bomb explosion at a polling station in Enugu state after the authorities discovered a car bomb
  • According to the TMG, intimidation of election monitors at three polling stations in the south

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated Nigerian politics since 1999, but Gen Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) is viewed as a serious challenge.

Some 800 people were killed after the 2011 contest between Mr Jonathan and Gen Buhari, a former military ruler, who alleged fraud.

On Friday, the Nigerian army said it had retaken the town of Gwoza, believed to be the headquarters of Boko Haram, one of the last places still under its control.

Source : BBC