Nigeria's electoral commission says 82 percent of voter cards collected

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 24, 2015 8:13 AM

ABUJA (Reuters) - About 82 percent of Nigerian voters have collected the cards they need to present at polling stations to take part in Saturday's presidential election, officials said on Tuesday.

The tight contest between President Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari was meant to take place on Feb. 14 but was delayed by six weeks because the military said it could not guarantee security, especially in the northeast, where Islamists have waged a six-year insurgency.

Since then, a concerted push against the Boko Haram militants, especially by neighbors Chad and Niger, has pushed them out of much of the territory they controlled.

There had been fears that millions of Nigerians in areas affected by the insurgency, including a million internal refugees, would be unable to vote.

"Wherever it is safe and people have resumed normal life, we will conduct elections," election commission head Attahiru Jega said. "We've also got arrangements to conduct elections for internally displaced persons. We have designated centers ... where IDPs will be able to vote."

The commission said about 56.7 million voter cards had been collected. Jega said distribution had now ceased, apart from a handful of cards that had just been produced and would be handed out in the next few days.

Jonathan is seeking a second elected term, in the closest-fought election since the end of military rule in 1999.

(Reporting By Julia Payne; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)