Abuja, Nigeria, 23rd February, 2019
Vote counting started in earnest at many of about 120,000 polling units at the close of polling in Nigeria’s rescheduled general elections on Saturday, 23rd February, even as balloting continued in a number centres where the exercise did not start in time due to the late arrival of polling personnel or materials.
The elections were generally peaceful, after initial slow start and reports of isolated violence in parts of the country.
The Head of the ECOWAS Observation Mission Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, witnessed the counting at the Wuse Zone 6 Primary School polling centre in the nation’s capital Abuja, having toured several centres to observe voting earlier in the day.
Voting was officially slated from 8 am to 2 pm, but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had directed polling units which started late to ensure that all registered voters on the queue by 2 pm should be allowed to cast their ballots.
By 6 pm, two of the seven polling units had counted their ballots for the presidential and National Assembly elections, with the two major parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), running neck-and-neck in the preliminary results.
A major challenge could be the lack of power supply at many of the polling units, should the electoral process last well into the night. Provision is made only for power supply at the Ward Collation centres
By 8 am, when the Head of ECOWAS Mission visited the Maitama Model Primary school polling units also in Abuja, polling officials were still setting up their materials, while voting only started at the centre with 11 polling stations by 9.39 am. By 10.20 am, some 22 voters had cast their ballots at polling unit one, and 12 voters by 10 am at polling unit 6.
The first voter cast his ballot by 9.30 am at nearby Maitama Model Secondary school polling centre with five polling units.
Similarly, at Durumi II polling centre, voting started at 9.20 am. However, by mid-day the process had picked up.
Agents of the major political parties were on ground to follow the process with security agents also maintaining law and order at various polling centres visited by the Head of the ECOWAS Observation Mission. The elderly, pregnant women and persons with disability were given priority at several polling units.
Madam Johnson-Sirleaf, who also visited the ECOWAS election Situation Room, noted that the electoral process was generally peaceful with the prospect for a credible outcome.
INEC, citing logistical and operational challenges had postponed the presidential and National Assembly polls from 16th to 23rd February, and moved the governorship and State Houses of Assembly votes from 2nd to 9th March.
Nigeria’s 91 registered political parties fielded 73 presidential candidates, including incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, who is seeking a second mandate of four years, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP.
Some 72.7 million of Nigeria’s 84 million registered voters, who have their Permanent Voters Cards, are electing a president, 29 State governors, 109 senators, 991 lawmakers of the National and State Houses of Assembly, six Area Council Chairperson and 62 Councillors in the Federal Capital Abuja, from among 1,558 candidates contesting the various positions.