- By Nduka Orjinmo
- BBC News, Abuja
The first results are expected later in Nigeria’s toughest election since the end of military rule in 1999.
However, after widespread delays and some attacks on polling stations on Saturday, voting has been pushed back until Sunday in parts of the country.
In other areas, voting lasted all night.
Voter turnout appears to be high, especially among young people who make up about a third of the 87 million eligible voters.
This makes it the largest democratic practice in Africa.
The election saw an unprecedented challenge to the two-party system that had dominated Nigeria for 24 years.
Peter Obi of the relatively unknown Labor Party, Bola Tinubu of the ruling Progressive Congress Party (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Democratic Party (PDP) are all seen as the likely winners. There are 15 other presidential candidates.
Saturday’s vote was marred by lengthy delays at polling stations, as well as isolated reports of hijacking of ballot boxes and attacks by armed men.
Dr Nkem Okoli was about to vote in the Lekki district of Lagos’ largest city when masked men attacked the polling station.
“There was hubbub,” she told the BBC. “There were bottles flying everywhere.” “They broke [the ballot box]. Officials’ phones were stolen. Now we can’t vote.”
In at least five states, voting did not begin in some places until around 18:00 local time – three and a half hours after the polls were scheduled to close.
single woman on Twitter She said she used her car’s headlights to illuminate the voting and counting process.
There is tension in parts of Rivers and Lagos states, as some political parties have asked their members to go to centers where votes are pooled, to prevent them from being tampered with.
There have also been complaints about the use of the recently introduced electronic voting system, with many voters accusing election officials of refusing to upload results into polling units as they are supposed to.
However, in those areas where the voting process went smoothly, the results are already being posted outside the individual polling stations.
These results will then be added from tens of thousands of polling stations across the country. An official from the Electoral College in each of Nigeria’s 36 states is due to head to the capital, Abuja, where results will be announced state by state, with the first announcement expected later on Sunday.
Final results are not expected until Monday at the earliest, and probably not until Wednesday.
In a press conference on Saturday, Elections Chief Mahmoud Yacoubou apologized for the delay in the vote.
Yakubu also said that gunmen attacked some polling units in southern Delta state and northern Katsina state, where voter card checking machines were being transported.
He added that they were later replaced and security beefed up to allow the vote to take place.
In northeastern Borno state, Yakubu said Islamist militants opened fire on election officers from a mountaintop in Gwoza district, injuring several officials.
The run-up to the election was overshadowed by a liquidity shortage caused by a failed attempt to redesign the currency, leading to widespread chaos in banks and ATMs as the desperate sought access to their cash.
The new banknotes were introduced in order to tackle inflation, as well as vote buying. Police said an MP was arrested on the eve of the election and took nearly $500,000 (£419,000) in cash, and a list of people he was supposed to give to them.
Whoever wins will have to deal with a collapsing economy, high youth unemployment and widespread insecurity, which killed 10,000 people last year.
Voters also cast their ballots for 109 federal senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives, with another gubernatorial vote in March.
Who are the main candidates?
Mr Obi, 61, enjoys strong support among some sectors of Nigeria’s youth, especially in the south.
Although he was in the PDP before that, he is seen as a relatively new face. The wealthy businessman served as governor of the southeastern state of Anambra from 2006 to 2014. His supporters, known as “OBIdients,” say he is the only candidate of integrity, but his critics argue the vote for him was lost because one of the two traditional parties is likely to win.
Instead, the People’s Democratic Party, which ruled until 2015, wants Nigerians to vote for Abubakar, 76 – the only major candidate from the country’s Muslim-majority north.
He’s run for president five times before – he’s lost all of them. He has faced accusations of corruption and nepotism, which he denies.
He spent most of his career in the corridors of power, serving as a high-ranking civil servant, vice president, and prominent businessman.
Most people regard the election as a referendum on the General People’s Congress (GPC), which has seen a period of economic hardship and heightened insecurity.
Its nominee, Mr. Tinubu, 70, is credited with building the commercial hub of Nigeria, Lagos, during his two terms as governor until 2007.
He is known as the political spiritual father in the southwestern region, where he wields great influence, but like Abu Bakr, he has also suffered from allegations of corruption over the years and poor health, which he both deny.
A candidate needs to receive the most votes and 25% of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states to be declared the winner.
Otherwise, there will be a run-off in 21 days – a first in Nigeria’s history.
Additional reporting by BBC teams across the country.
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