Nigerian’s electoral commission extended voting to Sunday in a president election plagued by polling place delays and glitches in a new electronic voter accreditation system. The balloting was also marred by violence, with seven voters killed in Gombe state by suspected Boko Haram gunmen, according to local residents, and attacks on electoral officials in the volatile Rivers State. Widespread problems were reported with the new biometric card readers aimed at identifying voters’ thumb prints before actual balloting began, As a result, voting was delayed for hours. The Independent National Electoral Commission agreed to extend voting to Sunday at polling places where there had been failures in the biometric system. The election commission acknowledged that the equipment had failed in many areas and voter accreditation had been too slow. “The commission reassures the public that it will thoroughly investigate what happened while it stays committed to credible elections,” the board said in a statement Saturday.
In the town of Dukqu in Gombe state, voters stayed away from the polls after gunmen attacked, burning down a police station and killing five people. Two others were killed in villages in Gombe. Nnambi Obasi, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, reported that voters were also intimidated in Rivers State, where turnout was low.
… At the heart of Nigeria’s hopes for the fairest election in its history was the handheld biometric devices designed to stop rigging. But as Ahmed Bashir placed his thumb on the reader Saturday morning, nothing happened. He put his thumb on again. Nothing. And again. The electoral commission official shook his head in wonder. The electronic reader was supposed to take just 10 seconds to accept a voter’s print.
It took more than five minutes, and dozens of efforts before the reader finally accepted Bashir’s thumbprint. Then the next voter stepped forward, and the same thing happened, as the crush of voters around the official grew increasingly restive. “I don’t think it’s working, because the next person is having the same problem,” said Bashir, 22, a student.