Nigerian authorities started moving sensitive voting materials under armed guard to polling units across the country while soldiers patrolled potential hot spot states ahead of Saturday’s national election.
Widespread insecurity is a major concern for voters who will elect new lawmakers and a president to succeed Muhammadu Buhari, who is not allowed to contest again after serving eight years.
In the northern Kano state, commercial capital Lagos and the southeastern Anambra state, which is in the grips of separatist and gang violence, soldiers were on the streets less than 24 hours before polls open.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials in Awka, the capital of Anambra state, were moving ballot papers, voting machines and petrol generators to polling stations under military guard.
“What you are seeing being moved today is the sensitive material,” said Queen-Elizabeth Ugwu, the resident INEC commissioner in Anambra.
Saturday’s election comes against a chaotic backdrop of armed conflict in the northeast, high levels of crime and shortages of cash, fuel and electricity.
Uncertain of the outcome of the election, Nigerians stocked up on food and essentials. Voting has sometimes been followed by violence in Africa’s most populous nation.
INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu said preparations were going smoothly but the agency had suspended voting in a senatorial district in Enugu, another southeastern state where an opposition Labour Party candidate was killed.
The candidate for Enugu East district and the driver of a campaign minibus belonging to another party were killed in coordinated attacks in Enugu State in the southeast.
Yakubu said voting for that seat would now be held on March 11, when Nigerians elect the country’s state governors.
“Materials already delivered for the senatorial election will remain in the custody of the central bank in the state until the new date for the election,” Yakubu told a news conference.
Flanked by the head of the police, Yakubu said INEC was on guard against possible attacks on its electronic system. Results from polling stations will be transmitted electronically using new voting machines.