Nigerians are about to go to the polls to elect a new leader, with President Goodluck Jonathan facing a strong challenge from Muhammadu Buhari.It is expected to be the most closely fought election since independence, set against a background of violence from militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated Nigerian politics since 1999, but the All Progressive Congress (APC) is viewed as a serious challenge.
The polls open at 07:00 GMT.
The two main presidential candidates have signed an agreement to prevent violence. during the election and its aftermath.
Some 800 people were killed after the 2011 contest between the two rivals.
The polls were due to be held on 14 February, but were postponed to give the electoral commission more time to prepare for the polls and for regional forces to regain territory from Boko Haram in the north-east.
On Friday, the Nigerian army said it had retaken the town of Gwoza, believed to be the headquarters of Boko Haram.
Voters in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja – the capital – will also elect members of the house of representatives and the senate.
Nigeria decides 2015
- Two main presidential candidates:
Muhammadu Buhari, All Progressives Congress (APC), Muslim northerner, ex-military ruler, fourth presidential bid
Goodluck Jonathan, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Christian southerner, incumbent president, second-term bid
- Years of military rule ended in 1999 and the PDP has been in power ever since
- Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and leading oil producer
- With a population of more than 170m, it is also Africa’s most populous nation
Nation split in tight contest
Nigeria decides 2015: Election coverage
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday: “The international community has high expectations that Nigeria will provide leadership in setting a high standard for this election.”
He called on Nigerians – in Africa’s most populous nation – to vote in large numbers.
He added that he hoped the presidential and parliamentary elections would be “transparent, inclusive and peaceful”.
Campaign group Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed some 1,000 people this year alone.
On Wednesday, army chief Kenneth Minimah said adequate security arrangements had been made for the polls.
On Thursday, the government closed its land and sea borders for the election.
The polls are due to close at 17:00 GMT.