Nigeria votes to elect president

Abuja : Polling stations across Nigeria opened on Saturday amid tight security, as more than 56 million eligible voters went to cast their ballots to elect a new president, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission said.

Registration started at 8 a.m. and voting began at 1:30 p.m., Xinhua news agency reported.

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Fourteen candidates will compete in the presidential election, but it is most likely to be a tight race between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, and opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, who is a former military leader.

The two contested in the 2011 general elections. In this year’s election, a neck-and-neck race is expected as both enjoy equal popularity.

There is heavy presence of security personnel in most polling stations in Abuja, the Nigerian capital city.

Similar security measures were in place across Nigeria, especially in the northern part of the country, which face security threats due to the turmoil caused by radical Boko Haram militants.

“I want to assure Nigerians of a violence-free general elections, which will commence with the presidential poll on Saturday,” State Defence Minister Austin Akobundu said on Thursday.

Nigeria delayed the general election in February by six weeks to allow government troops to recapture all the areas seized by radical Boko Haram militants since last year.

The Islamist terrorist group has killed more than 10,000 people in northeast Nigeria since 2009.

The tight security nationwide not only aims to handle potential Boko Haram attacks, but also to control election-related violence, which had seen some 1,000 people killed in 2011.