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Nigeria awaits tense presidential poll results

30 March 2015, 15:00

Abuja - Nigerians on Monday awaited the first results of a closely fought general election, despite protests over the conduct of the vote and calls for calm given fears of a repeat of post-poll violence.

The presidential election pitting President Goodluck Jonathan against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari is the closest in Nigeria's history, and first to present a credible opposition challenge.

International election observers gave broadly positive reactions to the conduct of the vote, despite late delivery of election materials and technical glitches with new voter authentication devices.

But Nigeria's Transition Monitoring Group, which had observers across the country, said: "These issues did not systematically disadvantage any candidate or party."

All eyes now will be on the results, which are expected from 1100 GMT, with violence typically flaring after the winning candidate is announced.

Kaduna, one of the worst-affected four years ago when some 1,000 people were killed in clashes, was said to be calm.

But some 2,000 women protesting against the conduct of elections were teargassed as they tried to converge on the local electoral commission offices in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt.

Jonathan's PDP has been in power since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999 but is being pushed to the wire by Buhari, from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The prospect of a democratic transfer of power -- plus economic woes caused by the slump in global oil prices, concerns about corruption and fears about insecurity -- energised the vote.

The winning presidential candidate needs the most votes and at least 25 percent support in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja to avoid a run-off.

Voting was pushed into an unscheduled second day Sunday after failures in controversial new technology designed to read biometric identity cards to combat electoral fraud.

Among those whose card did not work was the president himself.

But election chief Attahiru Jega said his commission was confident its objective of holding a "free, fair, credible and peaceful" election was "on course".

"We appeal to all Nigerians to remain peaceful as they await the return of these results," he told a news conference on Sunday.

Jega maintained only 0.25 percent of the 150,000 card readers used nationwide experienced problems but there were other issues, including the late or non-arrival of officials and materials.

Some 348 polling stations had to open again on Sunday to complete the vote, for which 68.8 million people are registered out of Nigeria's population of 173 million.

The PDP and the APC on Sunday traded allegations of rigging and other irregularities, which raises the possibility of a legal challenge to the results.

Thousands of APC supporters flooded the streets of Port Harcourt on Sunday, alleging irregularities by the PDP.

A local office of the Independent National Electoral Commission was burnt down in Rivers state, of which Port Harcourt is the capital, and protesters called for the vote to be re-run.

AFP reporters said the air outside the INEC offices was thick with the smell and taste of teargas after the women were dispersed on Monday.

APC women's leader Victoria Nyeche said: "What happened today was unprecedented... All we want is a fresh election because what happened on Saturday was a fraud."

Political parties have been urged to take any disputes to court rather than the street.

Boko Haram has dominated the campaign, with military operations against the Islamists forcing a six-week delay to the scheduled February 14 election.

On Sunday, residents and a military source said soldiers supported by two fighter jets intercepted the militants at Dungulbe village, seven kilometres (four miles) from Bauchi city in the northeast.

A spokesman for the Bauchi state governor said an indefinite, round-the-clock curfew had been imposed on three areas because of the fighting.

The militants were believed to have come through the town of Alkaleri, 60 kilometres away, where there was a dawn raid on Saturday.

Bauchi police spokesman Haruna Mohammed confirmed that polling stations in nearby Kirfi were attacked on Sunday and election materials were destroyed.

A series of suspected attacks on polling stations in neighbouring Gombe state on Saturday killed at least seven.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had vowed to disrupt the election, calling it "un-Islamic".

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