Elections in parts of Nigeria have been extended until today, Sunday after delays and a number of attacks. Voting is to continue today after technical problems during yesterday’s presidential election.
The incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan was also affected by these technical problems as new biometric cards slowed down voter registration.
Mr Jonathan and at least three governors from his ruling party were among those whose biometric details could not be checked by the new devices. Instead, they had to be processed by hand. Mr Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called it a “huge national embarrassment” and a “vindication” of their position against the technology.
“There should have been a test-run for a smaller election before deploying it for an election of this magnitude,” said Mr Jonathan’s presidential campaign spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode.
Also, violence was reported in some parts of the country as more than 20 people were reportedly killed in attacks by unknown gunmen.
It’s a stiff competition between Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan as 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.
Other booths experienced technical glitches, leading to voting being extended to Sunday at “about 300 polling units out of about 150,000”, a spokesman for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said.
At polling stations where voting was closed, officials began counting votes – with blackouts forcing some to use torches or car lights.
About 300 polling units out of about 150,000 were affected, a spokesman for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said.
The vote had been delayed by six weeks because of the insurgency by militants from the Islamist group, Boko Haram.
But several hours after voting started, reports came in of attacks at polling stations.
Attacks were reported in north-eastern Gombe state, including incidents where gunmen opened fire on voters at polling stations.
Millions of Nigerians turned out to vote, despite threats from Boko Haram to disrupt the poll.
“We have suffered enough, fled our homes after many attacks,” said Roda Umar, a housewife from the former militant headquarters of Gwoza. “I’m ready to endure the pain to vote.”
It is unclear whether the attacks were the work of Boko Haram militants or political thugs.
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.”
We’ve seen the impressive patience, discipline – and in the troubled north-east, pure courage – shown by most voters. Then there’s the increasingly sophisticated coalition of election observers, armed with cameras and social media, furiously publishing data and hunting for irregularities.
Those positives may not be enough to guarantee this election is free and fair. But there’s some reason for optimism. Whether the loser accepts defeat is, unfortunately, a rather different question.