Nigerians in the southern state of Edo braved the coronavirus and voted Saturday to elect a new governor in the country’s first poll since the start of the pandemic.
The vote was held as Nigeria struggled to contain the spread of the virus which has so far infected some 57,000 people and claimed almost 1,100 lives.
More than 1.7 million voters in Edo were expected to elect a new governor amid heavy security, with police officers and soldiers screening vehicles on major roads.
Voting began in most polling stations around 9:30 am (0830 GMT), one hour behind schedule due to late arrival of election personnel and materials.
The majority of stations closed at 3:00 pm, but registered voters still waiting some centres were allowed to cast their ballots.
“I am happy that people are here with their face masks but physical distancing is completely ignored,” nurse Florence Okonzua, 28 and a mother of two, said in Benin City, the state capital.
She worried that the way voters milled together could help spread the virus.
At another polling centre, a woman distributed free face masks.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, held general elections last year, but there was no governorship poll in Edo.
Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said adequate arrangements were in place for the election.
“Everything is set. We have deployed personnel and materials for a smooth and hitch-free poll,” Timidi Wariowei, state INEC spokesman, told AFP.
Final results are expected on Sunday.
Although 17 political parties have fielded candidates for the vote, it is a two-way race between President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki of the PDP ran against APC standard-bearer Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Obaseki was elected on APC’s platform in 2016 but defected to the PDP after being denied the ticket owing to intra-party squabbles.
Local media reported pockets of violence in some districts, but police said no-one had been hurt.
by Joel Olatunde Agoi