Nigeria Poll Process Stalled by Absent Staff, Faulty Gear

Nigerians faced long delays as they tried to register to vote in elections on Saturday as officials failed to turn up and equipment malfunctioned at polling centers across the country.
At some polling stations officials from the Independent National Electoral Commission didn’t arrive on time for the 8 a.m. official start of the registration process, Clement Nwankwo, executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, who is monitoring the ballot, said by phone. A number of voter card readers also weren’t working, he said.
In Karu, a southeastern district outside of the capital, Abuja, INEC workers only arrived at around 9:30 a.m.
“We came here around 7 a.m.,” Celestina Emehel, 54, a primary school teacher said as she queued to register in Karu, southeast of the capital, Abuja. “We thought that by this time they should have started the election. The day will be long. I don’t think they will finish before 7 p.m.”
Nigerians are voting in what is expected to be the tightest election since the military relinquished power in 1999. Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, a 72-year-old northern Muslim who’s lost three previous elections, is trying to end the reign of the People’s Democratic Party, which has governed Nigeria since the end of army rule. Standing in his way is President Goodluck Jonathan, a 57-year-old Christian from the oil-rich Niger River delta in the southeast who defeated him four years ago.
“We have got reports from our offices across some states,” Kayode Idowu, a spokesman for INEC, said by phone. “We know the areas where there are challenges and we’re intervening.”
‘Civic Duty’
At a polling station in the district of Oshodi, in Nigeria’s southwestern commercial capital, Lagos, registration didn’t start until 8:50 a.m. as material hadn’t been delivered, said Jerry Izogie, a presiding officer. About 50 people were queuing calmly at the station as they waited. Across the city, in the upmarket district of Ikoyi, INEC staff hadn’t yet turned up.
“We don’t know what is going on so we’re even beginning to doubt if there’ll be voting in this polling unit,” said Samuel Yakubu, a 48-year-old government worker. “I’ve devoted the whole of today to perform my civic duty.”
In the southern city of Port Harcourt, the hub of Nigeria’s oil industry, voting materials left the local INEC office with a long line of buses waiting to deliver supplies. Accreditation started at a few centers in the city by 9 a.m., though many were still waiting for INEC officials.
At the State Primary School in Port Harcourt’s Rumuomasi district, accreditation of voters began at 9:15 a.m. for the long line of voters. In Kududdufawa, in central Kano, the north’s largest city a polling station delayed registration due to Internet failure.
Home States
“We’ve been here waiting since 8 a.m., but materials were not immediately available,” said Henry Fubara, a 52-year-old contract worker in Port Harcourt’s oil industry. “Now they’re here, we expect things will go smoothly.”
At a polling station near the royal Emir’s palace in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, there was no sign of voting officials almost three hours after registration was supposed to begin.
“No one has come to explain to us why is it delayed,” said Usman Bala, 48, an aviation industry worker. “We are worried because time is going by.”
Both Buhari, who leads the united opposition party the All Progressives Congress, and Jonathan registered in their respective home states of northern Katsina and Bayelsa this morning. Voting is due to start at 1:30 p.m. Jonathan said he had difficulties using his biometric voter card, which Nigerians need to participate, and there may be delays.
“There may be hitches because this if the first time we’re using the cards,” Jonathan told reporters after registering. “I had problems with my accreditation. As long as nationally the process is going on well, its ok.”

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