A handful of polling stations remained open to allow more Nigerians to vote on Sunday in what is expected to be a tight presidential race between President Muhammadu Buhari and businessman Atiku Abubakar in Africa’s top oil producer.
Voters had queued late into the night on Saturday in a few areas of Africa’s most populous nation where polling stations had opened late or ballot machines malfunctioned. A handful of these opened again on Sunday to make up for the delays.
Nearly 73 million eligible voters cast their ballots from a pool of more than 70 presidential candidates in an election which was postponed the previous Saturday, just hours before it was due to begin, due to logistics.
It was not clear when the outcome of the results would be announced.
“Everything is going on well with the count,” said Festus Okoye, an Independent National Electoral Commission official.
INEC warns against unofficial results
INEC chairperson Mahmood Yakubu told journalists the commission was ‘generally satisfied’ with the vote, despite delays that caused it to be extended to Saturday night and in some cases Sunday.
Yakubu also cautioned against the premature declaration of results by candidates, political parties and their associates.
“Only the Independent National Electoral Commission can tally figures, announce results and declare winners,’‘ Yakubu said.
Both Buhari and Atiku’s camps have claimed ‘resounding victories’, citing results from different polling units across the country.
Enough is enough?
Other than the official presidential results from INEC, senatorial results for Kwara Central, where current Senate president Bukola Saraki was challenged by Ibrahim Oloriegbe of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is likely to be the most anticipated.
Several people have reported on social media that Saraki, who occupies the third most powerful political office in Nigeria, lost the race to retain his seat, thanks to what is being called the ‘Otoge’ movement (Enough is Enough)
Saraki, who defected from the APC to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), played a critical role in Atiku’s campaign.
If Saraki’s reported loss is confirmed by INEC, it would be a major political upset for the senate president, who is also a former governor of Kwara State and whose father Olusola Saraki was a senator in Kwara from 1979 to 1983.
#BuhariIsWinning vs #AtikuIsWinning
On social media, supporters of the two main candidates are claiming victory, using results from their own polling units, posted under the hashtags #BuhariIsWinning and #AtikuIsWinning.
Vote counting and collation underway across the country
Voting ended across the country at 2 pm for areas where voting kicked off on time. INECallowed extension for places where the process started late for a reason or the other.
Preliminary results are expected to come out by Sunday with the final result possibly being announced late on Monday, or early Tuesday morning, the BBC is reporting.
According to the laws, the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner in the first round, on condition that he gets at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of the country’s 36 states.
Early days yet, Buhari makes symbolic triple wins
As results are being counted and collated in parts of the country, voting is ongoing in places where the process started late for one reason or the other.
But with results trickling in especially at the ward level, Buhari has made three significant wins. The first is winning his polling unit, which was largely expected.
The incumbent has gone to win in the unit of his main opponent Atiku Abubakar in Yola, Adamawa State and also that of former president Olusegun Obasanjo – who was a big critic in the days to the vote.
Electoral violence in Lagos
Of all places, the commercial capital of Lagos has been hit by electoral violence according to reports by local portals and eye-witnesses.
The incident took place at Okota, Oshodi/Isolo Local Government Area, LGA, a video posted on Twitter showed people running away from polling units as live rounds were being discharged.
Voting materials at a polling unit were also seen being burnt after a scattered centre. Security has always been top of the agenda during the campaign and a serious concern during the polls.
Authorities assured that enough security had been deployed to quell any incidents of especially ballot snatching and other forms of infractions.
President Buhari had earlier this week stressed that the security forces had been given full orders to shoot at any person or group of persons who attempted to snatch ballot boxes.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, called him out for the orders saying he had given “shoot to kill” orders only because he aimed to subvert the will of the people using intimidation.
Buhari’s caution was issued at a meeting of the national caucus of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the capital, Abuja.
EFCC deploys operatives to combat vote-trading
Nigeria’s anti-graft body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been busy with working to combat vote trading in the ongoing polls.
EFCC has deployed its operatives across the country to prevent vote selling and vote buying. The practice is rife in Africa’s most populous nation, especially among the top parties.
The police, army and other security agencies have been deployed to undertake security tasks during the process.
Reports indicate disruption especially in the commercial capital Lagos whiles there are also places where police have successfully arrested miscreants for electoral offences.
Headaches identified by local news portal
Despite INEC’s position that card readers have largely been effective, a local news portal, the Cable, lists their malfunctioning as one of the key headaches of the ongoing process.
It adds the late arrival of officials and voting materials in some areas plus the hijack of election materials as the two other issues.
Except for pocket of issues identified in parts of the country, voting has largely been peaceful across the wide expanse of the country. INEC has also extended voting in places where voting started late for whatever reasons.
As stipulated by law, polling units are to open at 8:00 am (local time), and close at 2:00 pm. It means some areas where there were no hitches will be done voting whiles other places will still be voting due to the extension.
Alongside the presidency, National Assembly polls also underway
The ongoing vote is not only for presidential aspirants but also for two sets of lawmakers – the National Assembly.
Three ballot papers are given each voter, aside from the presidency, voting is also taking place for the Senate and House of Representatives nationwide.
On February 16, INEC chief said: “… the Commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly Elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019.
“Furthermore, the Governorship, State House of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections is rescheduled to Saturday 9th March 2019,” the elections body said.
Clinching the prize
The President of Nigeria is elected using a modified two round system, to serve a four year term of office.
To win in the first round, a candidate must receive a majority of the vote and over 25% of the vote in two-thirds of the states. If no candidate meets this threshold, a second round is held, pitting the top two candidates against each other.
Members of the House of Representatives are elected to 4-year terms, concurrent with the president, using first-past-the-post voting (simple majority) in single-member constituencies.
Members of the Senate are elected to 4-year terms, concurrent with the president, from 108 single-seat constituencies into which the States are divided (three each) and one single-seat constituency consisting the Federal Capital Territory, all by first-past-the-post voting.
To vote in the forthcoming elections, one must be;
- 18 years old
- a Nigerian citizen
- a registered voter
- present a Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) at the polling station
Voting opens at at 8:00am (local time), and closes at 2:00pm
- Presidential elections are held on the 3rd Saturday in February of any general election year.
- Election of governors and members of the National Assembly are held two weeks thereafter.
- In case of the need for a second round in the presidential election, it shall be held within 21 days following the announcement of first round results.
- To contest the election outcome, a petition must be filed within 21 days after the official results were declared.
- Election tribunals including the Court of Appeal for presidential and governorship elections, shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition.
- The courts may however adopt the practice of delivering its decision first, and defering the reasons for the verdict to a latter date.
At a glance
- 72 presidential candidates
- 360 members to be elected to House of Representatives
- 109 Senate members
- Population: 200,962,417 (2019 est.)
- Registered Voters: 84,004,084
What Buhari said after voting
“It is my constituency here, I’m pleased people are already lined up so at the same time the vote can continue, thank you very much.
(REPORTER ASKING: How do you feel yourself, sir?”) Well so far, so good. Nigerians understand that they are believing themselves.
(REPORTER ASKING: “Are you hopeful?”) Very hopeful indeed. (REPORTER ASKING: “If you lose will you accept defeat and congratulate the winner?) I will congratulate myself, I’m going to be the winner. Thank you very much.”
Atiku expects “successful transition”
Over in the northeast, in Yola, capital of Adamawa State, his main contender and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar said he was looking forward to a successful transition after casting his ballot.
Atiku a former ally of Buhari has called on voters to repeat the 2015 feat where an incumbent was voted out. The two opponents were in the the same camp when the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, defeated the Goodluck Jonathan led government.
Atiku abandoned the APC and rejoined the now main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, under which he had served as vice-president for two terms, i.e. 1999 – 2007.
Suspected Islamists attack Nigerian town hours before poll, residents say
Suspected Islamist militants on Saturday attacked a northeastern Nigerian town, forcing people to flee hours before presidential election polls were due to open, residents said.
“We have fled, along with our wives and children and hundreds of others,” Ibrahim Gobi, who lives in the town of Geidam in Yobe state, said by telephone.
“We are right now running and hiding in the bushes.” Around the same time a Reuters witness said blasts were heard in Maiduguri, the capital of the neighbouring state of Borno.
Northeast Nigeria has been hit by the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency with attacks in recent months carried out by offshoot Islamic State in West Africa Province.