Explosions and delays mark Nigeria’s presidential election

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari Credit: Ben Curtis/AP

Gunfire and explosions have opened Nigeria’s delayed election as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term.

The vote, widely seen as too close to call, was also marred by hours-long delays at polling stations across the vast West African country.

Police said they triggered the blasts in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, shortly before polls opened in a show of force to deter the Islamic extremists that plague the north east.

But security sources said a rocket hit a displaced persons’ camp, while a blast at an army garrison killed one solider and injured four others.

The army also confirmed a “futile” attack on a security outpost in Geidam in Yobe state.

Voting turnout appeared to be light as authorities tried to calm panicked, sceptical residents.

Gunfire also was heard in Port Harcourt in Nigeria’s restive south, where the military presence was heavier than in past elections.

One convoy in Delta state contained more than 25 vehicles with battle-ready soldiers.

Later in the day, soldiers in Rivers state fired on suspected ballot snatchers, with four people arrested.

Mr Buhari brushed aside reporters’ questions about whether he would accept a loss to top challenger Atiku Abubakar, a billionaire former vice president.

President Muhammadu Buhari (left), pictures with party official Mustapha Dankadai, faces a challenge from opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar. Credit: AP

The president, first in line to vote in his northern hometown of Daura, jokingly checked the name on his wife’s ballot.

Nigerians “are behaving themselves”, the president said.

A smiling Mr Abubakar, after voting in his hometown of Yola in the north east, told reporters that “I look forward to a successful transition”.

He previously pledged to accept the results, provided they are credible.

Mr Buhari called the voting process smooth, but a coalition of civic groups said multiple polling units had not opened more than four hours after the official start.

Delays were reported in Delta, Anambra and Akwa Ibom states as well as in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city.