- Nigeria holds presidential and legislative elections
- Race to succeed President Buhari seen as wide open
- Measures have been taken to limit the risk of fraud
- Reports of widespread violence
KANO, Nigeria, Feb. 25 (Reuters) – Officials counted votes in Nigeria’s election on Saturday, with people hoping for a reset after years of escalating violence and hardship under outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, undeterred by delays at some polling places.
The election commission said official results could be expected late on Sunday. By evening, some polling stations were already counting the votes, while others were still voting and others had not taken place.
Voting was now expected to take place on Sunday.
Whoever wins faces a litany of crises. Africa’s most populous country is battling Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, an epidemic of kidnappings for ransom, conflicts between herders and farmers, shortages of money, fuel and power, as well as entrenched corruption and poverty.
Reuters reporters at locations across the country saw some polling places close at the scheduled time of 2:30 p.m. (1330 GMT), while others have yet to open.
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“I’ll wait here to cast my vote. If I don’t vote, how will things change?” said 23-year-old Halima Sherif, whose polling station in the northern city of Kano was not open by closing time.
Some states were expected to announce results on Sunday and the final count of all 36 states plus the federal capital of Abuja was expected within five days of the vote. The election is also for seats in the National Assembly.
There were occasional violent incidents on Saturday, but not on the scale of previous elections in the country of more than 200 million people.
Buhari, a retired army general, is stepping down after serving the maximum eight years allowed by the constitution but failing to keep his promise to restore order and security in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil-producing country.
The battle to succeed him is wide open, with candidates from two parties who have alternated since the end of the military regime in 1999 facing an unusually strong challenge from a small party candidate popular among young voters.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials cited technical issues with a new anti-fraud biometric accreditation system, the late arrival of vehicles to transport them and the lack of voter registers as causes of delays.
“It is frustrating that INEC is not prepared for us. We just want to vote,” said Sylvester Iwu, who was in a large crowd waiting at a polling station in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state in the southern oil-producing region. Niger Delta.
In a televised news briefing, INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu said six biometric machines had been stolen in northern Katsina state and two in southern Delta state. He also acknowledged the delays but said voters would be able to cast their ballots.
“The elections will go ahead and no one will be disenfranchised,” he said.
Yakubu said at a later briefing that voting would take place on Sunday in several neighborhoods in Yenagoa that had experienced severe disruption on Saturday.
In the northeastern state of Borno, the epicenter of the Islamist insurgency, suspected fighters from the Boko Haram group fired mortar shells into the rural Gwoza area, killing a child, wounding four others and disrupting voting, it said. army resources.
In Abuja, a team from the Anti-Corruption Commission for Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) was attacked by thugs just after they arrested a man on suspicion of paying for a group of people’s votes using a banking app, the EFCC said.
In Lagos, a Reuters TV crew watched police arrest four men on suspicion of voter intimidation, while an election observer from a local civil society group said he had seen thugs armed with knives, chains and bottles smashing ballot boxes.
However, the day seemed to have passed peacefully in most areas, despite frustrations over the delays.
The main contenders to succeed Buhari are former Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu, 70, of the ruling All Progressives Congress, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 76, of the largest opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, and former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, 61, of the smaller Labor Party.
All three voted in their home countries, surrounded by chaotic scrums of reporters and supporters.
“The election process cannot reach 100% perfection,” Tinubu told reporters after the vote. “People have to tolerate that. You have to accept the results.”
Tinubu and Atiku, as he is known in Nigeria, are both political heavyweights with decades of networking behind them. Both Muslims, Tinubu is an ethnic Yoruba from the southwest and Atiku is a Fulani from the northeast.
Obi, a Christian from the Igbo ethnic group, has less of a political machine but has used a slick social media campaign to generate huge enthusiasm among young voters, with some even calling themselves the “Obidients”.
INEC says its new Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), which identifies voters using biometrics, would help prevent fraud. Reuters reporters at some locations said officials struggled to get the BVAS devices to work, while the system functioned smoothly at other locations.
Despite INEC’s precautions, analysts have warned there are still risks that cash-strapped citizens could be vulnerable to vote-buying attempts by candidates.
Additional reporting by Ahmed Kingimi and Lanre Ola in Maiduguri, Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa, Abraham Achirga in Kano, Garba Muhammad in Kaduna, Temilade Adelaja and Seun Sanni in Agulu, MacDonald Dzirutwe, Tim Cocks, Vining Ogu and James Oatway in Lagos, Edwin Waita and Felix Onuah in Abuja, Anamasere Igboereteonwu in Onitsha Written by Estelle Shirbon Edited by Frances Kerry and Andrew Heavens
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