Logistical and security challenges caused widespread delays across the country on Saturday leading to frustration among voters, some of whom stayed overnight and still had not voted the next morning.
“No sacrifice is too great to elect a credible leader of your choice,” said Glory Edevor, who stood in line all night to vote in Delta state.
Election officials blamed the delay on logistical issues, while other observers pointed to the chaos created by a redesigned currency that left many unable to obtain banknotes. The shortage of money affected the behavior not only of voters but also of election workers and police officers who provide security.
Although Saturday’s election was largely peaceful, observers say there were at least 135 critical incidents, including eight reports of ballot rigging that invalidated those votes and undermined the legitimacy of the country’s democracy. , said Yiaga Africa, the country’s largest election monitoring body. The challenges were also likely a result of low voter turnout, the group said.
“It is unacceptable that Nigerians who have the constitutional rights to participate in an election go out to vote and you have thugs making it difficult for them,” said Samson Itodo, the leader of the organization. “The nation must rise up and condemn these acts of voter suppression that we witnessed yesterday,” he said.
On Saturday, Associated Press journalists saw armed men pull up to a voting station in a minibus, shoot in the air and snatch the presidential ballot box. The shots sent voters screaming and scattering, and ballots scattered across the floor.
In the capital, Abuja, some voters said they were banned from voting at all.
“They used different strategies to make sure we don’t continue to vote,” said Emmanuel Ogbu. The 45-year-old trader waited with more than 100 people to vote on Sunday but election officials said they did not have enough materials, such as ink, and had to wait for the supervisor who was yet to arrive.
This year’s vote is being watched carefully because Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy. By 2050, the United Nations estimates that Nigeria will be tied with the United States as the third most populous nation in the world after India and China.
Current President Muhammadu Buhari is stepping down after two four-year terms. His poor health and frequent trips abroad for medical treatment caused great concern during his tenure. Out of the field of 18 presidential candidates, three front-runners have emerged in recent weeks: the candidate from Buhari’s ruling party, the main opposition candidate and a third-party contender who has attracted strong support from younger voters.
As voting continues several issues need to be considered, conflict analysts say. Officials must ensure adequate security at polling stations that are still operating, monitor vote rigging and manipulation, and control misinformation, said Dr. Akinola Olojo, project manager for the Lake Chad Basin team at the Institute for Security Studies.
“(These) points of attention are critical to the success of the election which can be considered as the toughest election in the recent history of Nigeria., There were just over 600 deaths in the last election cycle in 2019 and it is important that Nigeria would avoid such a situation. while at the same time ensuring that the voice of the citizens is confirmed through the current election,” he said.
Associated Press reporters Taiwo Ajayi in Abuja, Nigeria, and Sam Mednick in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, assisted.