By Olanrewaju Kola
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AA) - Millions of Nigerians headed to polls on Saturday to elect state governors.
As voting began at about 8:30 a.m. local time (0730GMT) in parts of the country, many said they are unsure the poll will be free and fair. They said the “lapses and irregularities” experienced in the Feb. 25 presidential elections exacerbated their fears and doubts.
“I'm doubting the fairness and outcome of this election because of what happened in the last presidential election. I'm not satisfied with the process of ballot counting by the electoral commission,” Shettima Zanna, a voter told Anadolu after casting his ballot.
The results of the presidential elections, which showed the candidate of the governing All Progressive Congress Bola Tinubu the winner as declared by the Independent National Electrical Commission (INEC), is being disputed by opposition parties.
The elections of governors originally fixed for March 11 were shifted to March 18 after a court granted the INEC’s request to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) in the 774 local governments (counties) in the country.
Mahmoud Yakubu, the INEC head, said Saturday’s elections are being held in 28 of the country's 36 states.
"The governorship election will not take place in eight off-circle states and these include Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi, Osun, Anambra, Ekiti, Edo and Ondo. But elections for Houses of assembly will, however, take place in all the 36 states," he announced in Abuja, the nation's capital.
But some Nigerians also said they are worried about their safety during voting due to threats of violence and political attacks in some states.
"I have apprehensions about the security and fairness of the process. I only hope the police will do their job and INEC is fair," said Tajudeen Ademola, as he headed to his polling center in Lagos, Nigeria's most populated city.
The police, however, assured citizens that adequate troops deployed to polling centers will quell any outbreak of violence.
"We have improved in our deployment strategies where we observed we have lapses in the last election (on Feb. 25)," Olumuyiwa Adejobi, a police spokesman, told local Channels TV on late Friday.
Anti-riot policemen are conducting air and land surveillances in some cities – including Lagos, southern Port-Harcourt, northwest Kano and Kaduna – considered as flashpoints of violence, a police official told Anadolu.
On Friday, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Nigeria’s former military president and head of the National Peace Committee, expressed concern about threats of violence.
"We are worried by the open threats of intimidation and violence by certain elements within society who are using ethnic and religious labels to achieve their intentions to suppress voters," he said.
Governors in Nigeria are very powerful as they shape the politics and economic policies of the country.