Nigeria counts votes as nation awaits election outcome


YOLA, Nigeria (AP) — Vote counting continued Sunday as Nigerians awaited the outcome of a presidential poll seen as a tight race between the president and a former vice president.

Although voting was peaceful in most areas of Nigeria Saturday, there were a few outbreaks of violence in the vast West African country and many reports of delays at polling stations.

Many polling stations remained open after dark to allow people waiting in line to vote. Turnout appeared light following the last-minute postponement of the election for a week. More than 72 million people were eligible to vote.

There were media reports Sunday of voting still taking place in some remote areas that experienced problems Saturday.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler who won election in 2015, is seeking his second term against more than 70 candidates. His main rival is Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and billionaire businessman.

Abubakar’s party is alleging “deliberate” voter suppression in areas where Buhari’s ruling party is known to be unpopular.

In the northern city of Kano tempers flared at one collation center where unaccredited Abubakar supporters alleged that ballots from a couple of polling units hadn’t been counted. Amid shouting, security personnel pushed them out of the courtyard’s metal door.

A ruling party supervisor, Joy Bako, watched in exasperation before they engaged her in a heated argument.

“It was free and fair,” she said. “Nobody was arguing. I’m surprised at all this noise.”

Observers and workers at the collation center, and others who had visited multiple centers, reported a peaceful process in an area where voters were expected to largely support Buhari.

Some called the vote more transparent than the one in 2015, considered one of the best-run in Nigeria’s history.

“I’m so tired,” said electoral officer Ibrahim Idris, as young people in the collation room bent over calculators and poster-sized sheets scribbled with results. He called the election a success so far: “We thank God.”

Even an opposition supporter, Abubakar Ali, paused from the ruckus to acknowledge that “everything was going clear.” But a lot of people did not come out to vote as compared to the last time, he said.

He voted for Buhari in 2015 but said the president had “betrayed” the people by not following up on his promises.

Nigeria’s presidential election was held a week late, after the electoral commission said it needed more time to organize the logistics of holding a credible election

Observers said the delay of the election from last week, blamed on logistical challenges, could favor Buhari, with some Nigerians saying they didn’t have the resources to travel a second time to their place of registration.

It’s unclear when a winner will be announced, but some observers say it could be Tuesday or Wednesday.