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Nigeria Elections 2019: Nigerians get ready for election day (again)



It markets the third time in row that has been delayed in Nigeria.

With 84 million people registered in the country, its Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has the mammoth task of overseeing the voting process in Africa's largest democracy.

Early on February 16, INEC's chairman said that after a review of the "logistics and operational plan," proceeding with the vote that day was not feasible.

The fallout was swift, with the two main political parties blaming one another. Nigeria is also counting the economic cost of delaying the elections, which has been put into more than $ 2 billion according to analysis firm SBM Intelligence, which estimates that Nigeria lost 0.531% of its $ 420 billion gross domestic product.

Many figures, such as Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson, expressed concern that one week is not enough time for the INEC to deal with the concerns they expressed previously.

The delay also comes with a new set of logistical challenges. For example, the dates on thousands of electronic card readers for biometric voting were all required to be changed to the new election date. INEC says that it has now reconfigured 100% of these readers and is on track to deliver voting materials to states that didn't originally have them.

Probably likely to go ahead, there are fears of low participation on Saturday, including those expressed by INEC itself. Spokesman Festus Okoye told local media on Monday, "We are worried about voter turnout."

Many Nigerians travel from major cities such as Lagos and to their home towns or villages to vote where they are registered. Some are unlikely to make another trip after last week's wasted journey or will be unwilling to pay to travel again.

In an effort to get out the vote, the government has declared the elections and public holidays and airlines are offering discounts. Groups are also organizing free "buses for democracy," to help combat voter apathy.

What about the threats of violence?

The delay has increased tensions in this crucial vote and there has been some violence in the lead-up, prompting warnings from the British and US governments that they would deny to, and could prosecute, anyone found inciting violence during the election .
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The Islamic State's West Africa Province terror group, a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, has staged a number of high-profile attacks in recent months.

Normal life has been put on hold nationwide for the elections, with borders closed and drivers urged not to take their cars on the roads.

Curfews will also be in place across Nigeria's ahead of Saturday's elections.

President Muhammadu Buhari this week ordered the military to be ruthless with anyone attempting to hit or snatch ballot boxes, as can sometimes happen in Nigeria. He also found anyone trying to fraud is doing so "at the expense of their lives."

One of the president's key allies, Nasir El-Rufai, was widely mentioned after his foreign observers who interfered in the country's elections would "go back in body bags."

What is at stake?

Buhari, 76, is running against other presidential candidates but his main challenger is Atiku Abubakar, a 72-year-old business tycoon and former vice president. They are both Muslim candidates from the north of the country.

When Buhari, a former military ruler, was elected in 2015 it was the first peaceful transition of power in the country. He promised to be a new broom, offering a clean sweep of the old routine but having been left disillusioned and angry at the rising levels of inequality and extreme poverty.

An estimated 91 million Nigerians are now impoverished, the highest number in any country in the world, according to The Brookings Institution.

The latest vote comes at a critical time for the country's economy. The recent oil price crash sent Nigeria's economy into turmoil when the price of a barrel plunged to $ 40 at its lowest from a high of $ 100, leaving the country's major revenue source depleted.

To be elected, either Buhari or Abubakar (or another very unlikely candidate) must receive the majority and more than 25% of the vote in at least 24 of the country's 36 states. It will go to a second round if no one receives this required number.

Political strategist George Ajjan said having two northern Muslim candidates is good for Nigeria's democracy as the "removes religion and region from the sentiments of voters."

"Now, voters can consider which party's platform has more to offer, rather than" I am voting for the guy who talks or prays like me, "said Ajjan.


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