Millions Vote in Nigeria's Elections Despite Boko Haram Attacks
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Millions voted across Nigeria Saturday in the most closely contested presidential race in the nation's history.
The turnout came despite attacks by Boko Haram extremists that killed 41 people, including a legislator, and scared hundreds of people from polling stations.
All the Boko Haram attacks took place in northeastern Nigeria, where the military Friday announced it had cleared the extremists from all major centers, including the headquarters of their so-called Islamic caliphate.
Nearly 60 million people have cards to vote. For the first time, there is a possibility that a challenger can defeat a sitting president in the high-stakes contest to govern Africa's richest and most populous nation.
The front-runners among 14 candidates are President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.
Voters also are electing 360 legislators to the House of Assembly, where the opposition has a slight edge over Jonathan's party.
Nigeria's political landscape was transformed two years ago when the main opposition parties formed a coalition and united behind one candidate, Buhari. Dozens of legislators defected from Jonathan's party.
Polling will continue Sunday in some areas where new machines largely failed to read voters' biometric cards, said Kayode Idowu, spokesman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. That includes some areas of Lagos, a megacity of 20 million and Nigeria's commercial capital on the Atlantic coast.
In other areas, vote counting ended Saturday night, with blackouts that are routine forcing some officials to count by the light of vehicles and cellphones, AP reported.
Earlier, before dawn, Boko Haram extremists invaded the town of Miringa in Borno state, torching people's homes and then shooting them as they tried to escape. Twenty-five people died in the attack, Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima said at a news conference in the city of Maiduguri.
"They had sent messages earlier warning us not to encourage democracy by participating in today's election," said Mallam Garba Buratai, a Miringa resident who witnessed the attack. Nigeria's extremists say democracy is a corrupt Western concept.
Another 14 people were killed in extremist attacks on the town of Biri and Dukku, in Gombe state, according to police and local chief Garkuwan Dukku. Among the dead was a Gombe state legislator, Umaru Ali, said Sani Dugge, the local campaign director for the opposition coalition.
Two voters were killed in Boko Haram attacks on polling stations in the twin Gombe towns of Birin Bolawa and Birin Fulani, according to police.