Nigerians head to polls Saturday to elect governors

Election delayed for 'logistical reasons'

By Aanu Adeoye, CNN
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Lagos, Nigeria - Nigerians will head to the polls Saturday to elect state governors and representatives to state assemblies.

Elections will be held for 29 governors and all 36 state assembly houses.

The vote originally scheduled for March 2nd was postponed another week by the country's electoral agency, the National Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

INEC announced the delay a few hours before presidential and parliamentary polls opened in the West African nation.

It cited "logistical reasons" for a week-long delay that raised concerns over low voter turnout in a country where people can only cast their ballots at polling units in the area where they initially registered.

Official figures from INEC showed only 35.6% of voters took part in the February 23 vote that re-elected incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, a drop from 2015's 44%.

State governors in Nigeria control huge budgets and have a large influence in the country's politics.

The state-wide elections are widely expected to be a race between candidates from Buhari's All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, although other political parties fielded candidates at various levels.

Polls open at 8 a.m local time and close officially at 2 pm. Results are not expected until Sunday at the earliest.

Key states to watch include the commercial hub of Lagos, oil-rich Rivers in the Niger Delta region, and Benue state in Nigeria's middle belt, where pastoral conflict between herdsmen and farmers has killed more than 1,300 people since the start of last year.

Lagos is of strategic importance to Nigeria. It is Africa's most populous city, its fifth largest economy, and a stronghold of the ruling party in Nigeria, which has been in power in the state for 20 years.

Jimi Agbaje, the gubernatorial candidate of the opposition party, hopes to break that long run.

"Lagos is the fifth largest economy in Africa but has not got much to show for it, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of like I said the quality of life," Agbaje told CNN.

Lagos has ranked as of one the least livable cities in the world for two years in a row, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, candidate of the ruling APC, said he plans to address the city's chronic traffic woes to improve these indices.

"There are some of innovative things that we're looking to solve the traffic situation...we'll see if we can bring about an integrated mass transit system using rail, water, and the bus rapid transit system," Sanwo-Olu told CNN.

There are fears of a repeat of pockets of violence that occurred during the presidential vote in February.

Few hours to the vote, bombs went off in the Borno state capital of Maiduguri.

The Nigerian army also said it prevented an attack by suspected militants on a military outpost in Yobe state. Both states are often targeted by terror group Boko Haram, which has waged a war of carnage in northern Nigeria.

At least 39 people were killed in election-related violence, according to the Situation Room, a coalition of more than 70 civic organizations that monitored the elections.

The Situation Room, citing data from analysis firm SBM Intelligence, said most of the deaths occurred in the oil-rich Rivers state, where incumbent governor Nyesom Wike of the PDP is tipped to win a second term following a court ruling barring the ruling party from fielding a candidate in the state.

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