Nigeria voters return to polls


Abuja – Voters unable to cast their ballot because of technical problems in Nigeria’s general election returned to the polls on Sunday, as the main parties traded blows over the use of the technology.

The country’s electoral commission said about 300 of the 150 000 polling stations would be open from 07.00 GMT to accredit voters after handheld devices to read biometric identity cards failed.

Nigeria’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called the situation a “huge national embarrassment” after President Goodluck Jonathan was affected by the malfunction as he tried to register on Saturday.

The ruling party said repeatedly throughout the campaign that the technology should not be used as it was untested and there were questions about officials’ ability to use it.

The main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) backed the new system as a way of curbing widespread vote-rigging that has hit previous elections.

With the election closely fought, both parties looked set to keep the issue alive. Voters will be accredited throughout the morning either with the devices or if they fail again, by hand.

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Election officials sort out ballots papers at the end of voting in one of the polling stations in Yola, Nigeria. Picture: Sunday AlambaAP

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, sought to downplay the malfunctions, saying it was limited to “only about 450” card readers.

But he told the private Channels television that provision for a second day of voting was granted because it was a democratic right for citizens.

“It (the technical problems and extension) will not affect returns on (the) presidential election,” he said.

On Saturday, many voters camped overnight or arrived early at polling stations to have their credentials checked before returning to vote in the afternoon and long into the night.

The final voters cast their ballot in the dark and the count was started at many polling stations by flashlight, with Nigeria hit by regular, daily power cuts.

Government spokesman Mike Omeri claimed it was a “record high voter turnout”, without giving figures, adding that it was a “triumph of Nigerian democracy” despite the polling problems.