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Supply Problems Delay Nigerian Elections

Voters queue to register during parliamentary elections in Kano, northern Nigeria, April 1, 2011

Voters queue to register during parliamentary elections in Kano, northern Nigeria, April 1, 2011

Nigerian officials postponed parliamentary elections Saturday, sparking anger and disappointment across Africa's most populous country.

Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, went on TV Saturday blaming the delay on the inability of the company supplying the ballots and tally sheets to get the items to all of the country's polling places on time.

Jega said the planes that were to have delivered the voting materials to Nigeria had instead been diverted to carry relief supplies to Japan, which is recovering from an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Jega promised the vote would proceed on Monday.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, whose own polling center did not have the needed materials, asked Nigerians to be patient. But many voters expressed frustration and anger, some saying that many people who had travelled to reach the polling centers would not come back on Monday.

On Friday, Jega gave no hint of any problems, instead saying the April elections would give Nigeria the chance to "get it right" after violence and fraud marred the last polls in 2007.

Nigeria's electoral commission had pledged to make this year's polls free and fair, and introduced new voting procedures designed to prevent cheating and maintain order.

The parliamentary election is to be followed by a presidential vote on April 9. President Goodluck Jonathan is facing a field of challengers led by former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. A third round of polls for state governor posts follows on April 16.

Nigeria has seen sporadic violence in the run-up to the polls, especially in the north of the country. It is not clear whether all the violence is politically motivated.

Africa's most populous country shut its land borders and increased security ahead of Saturday's scheduled vote. Authorities had also planned to restrict the movement of vehicles while voters cast ballots.

Nigeria's ruling People's Democratic Party is hoping to retain its hold on the presidency and parliament.

Jonathan is seeking his first full term after rising to power last year following the death of predecessor Umaru Yar'Adua. His run was opposed by some PDP members who accuse him of breaking an informal rule to rotate the presidential nomination between Muslims from the north and Christians from the south.

Jonathan is a Christian, while Yar'Adua was a Muslim. President Yar'Adua died just three years into what was expected to be a two-term, eight-year presidency.

Nigeria's population of 140 million - the largest in Africa - is split roughly evenly between Muslims and Christians.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.