ABUJA: Vote counting is under way in Nigeria’s tightest presidential election since military rule ended in 1999.
Turnout appeared to be high, with many young, first-time voters arriving before dawn to cast their ballots.
Saturday’s voting was marred by long delays at polling stations, as well as scattered reports of ballot box snatching and attacks by armed men and some parties have raised alarm over allegations of irregularities, which could lead to a disputed outcome.
The elections are the biggest democratic exercise in Africa, with 87 million people eligible to vote.
Politics has been dominated by two parties, the ruling APC and the PDP – since the restoration of multi-party democracy 24 years ago but this time, there is also a strong challenge from a third-party candidate in the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari from the Labour Party’s Peter Obi, who is backed by many young people.
Tens of thousands of polling stations are counting the results, which will be collated and sent to the electoral headquarters in the capital Abuja.
The final result is not expected until at least Tuesday.
Nigeria decides: Voting day as it happened
At a press briefing on Saturday, the electoral chief, Mahmood Yakubu, apologised for the delays in voting, but he said that everyone who was in a queue by 14:30 local time (13:30 GMT) would be allowed to cast their ballots, even though polling stations were officially supposed to close by then.
Voters in the biggest city, Lagos, cheered as electoral officers arrived at a polling station in the suburb of Lekki nearly four hours after polls had officially closed.
“As a Nigerian you expect any eventuality, so I came out with my power bank and a bottle of water. I will wait till they arrive so I can vote,” first-time voter Edith told media.
Scattered reports of armed attacks at polling stations
The Election Day was largely peaceful, but there have been reports from Lagos of violence and ballot boxes being snatched. Some voters complained of being attacked and chased out of where they had gathered to cast their ballots.
In other places, people reported being asked to either vote for a particular candidate or leave the polling centre.
Yakubu said that armed men had also attacked some polling units in the southern state of Delta and the northern state of Katsina, where voter card verification machines were carted away.
They were subsequently replaced and security boosted to allow voting to take place, he added but voting was postponed to Sunday at 141 polling stations in the oil-rich southern state of Bayelsa because of disruptions. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)