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  • Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (L) and opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar (R) at rallies in Lagos, Nigeria, Feb. 12, 2019.

    Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (L) and opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar (R) at rallies in Lagos, Nigeria, Feb. 12, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 February 2019

Opposition challenger urges the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC) to ensure impartiality, calling on security forces to maintain order during the election.

Thursday Nigeria’s presidential candidates ended their campaigns for Saturday's elections, in which President Muhammadu Buhari will seek a second and final four-year term, amid threats by the Niger Delta Avengers who promised to launch attacks if the incumbent is re-elected.

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Buhari held one last rally in his home state of Katsina, in the northwest of the country, while his main adversary, Atiku Abubakar, campaigned in Yola, presenting programs before multitudes of supporters.

"Throughout the country, we are building and repairing roads and rail lines, [something] that was not done since 1999," the 75-year-old president said on his Twitter account.

For his part, candidate for opposition Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Abubakar, called on Nigerians to go to the polls. "Today I ask you to come to vote this Saturday. Every vote counts and not voting is the same as letting things stay unchanged. The future of Nigeria is in your hands," he tweeted.

The opposition candidate urged the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC) to ensure impartiality, calling on security forces to maintain order, and urged Buhari to ensure that "every person who cast their vote has confidence in the process and knows that he will be taken into account."

The INEC said Thursday that everything is in place for the elections, in which more than 84 million people are called to the polls to elect a new president from among 73 candidates, although Buhari and Abubakar are the favorites.

Nigeria, which is the most populous African nation with almost 200 million inhabitants, will hold its fifth elections Saturday since 1999, amid a climate of tension and threats from a militia which is located at the south of the country.

The ‘Niger Delta Avengers,’ who demand more equitable distribution of oil incomes, threatened to launch severe attacks, similar to those of 2016, if President Buhari wins the elections.

The militia has openly supported the opposition Abubakar, whom they have called on to initiate a "restructuring" of the country within six months, if elected, to avoid incidents that could deplete Nigeria's oil potential.

Nigeria, Africa's largest economy and first oil producer, has a history of post-election violence. In 2011, some 800 people died after rioting in northern Nigeria following the announcement of the elections; while in 2015, about 58 people lost their lives in pre-election violence.

For this reason, the two main contenders to the elections - Buhari and Abubaka r- signed an agreement on the eve in which they agree to accept the results. Previously, in Dec. 2018, they also signed a peace pact, which prohibited the promotion of violence before, during and after the elections process.

Buhari, who came to power in May 2015, comes forward with the promise of fighting corruption and smothering the jihadist militia Boko Haram in the northeast of the country, while Abubakar promises to revive the economy and reduce unemployment.

According to a poll projection, Abubakar will win the elections over Buhari, with a difference of votes of around 12 percent.

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