Heavy security for Nigerian state vote

2011-12-03 16:40

Lagos - Nigeria deployed heavy security on Saturday for a governorship election in Kogi State located in the volatile central region where hundreds have died in clashes in recent months, officials said.

"Election materials and personnel have been deployed while thousands of policemen and other security agents are on the ground to ensure a hitch-free exercise," electoral agency spokesperson Kayode Idowu told AFP.

"So far, the exercise has been without any incident. The accreditation of voters has ended and voting is in progress," he said.

National police spokesperson Olusola Amore said adequate security had been provided for the vote.

"The state commissioner of police is working with other security agents to ensure everything is in order. The law enforcement agencies are on top of the situation," he said.

Idowu said 17 candidates would vie for the governorship.

In the middle belt region

But the vote is seen as a straight contest between Idris Wada of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Abubakar Audu of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Audu was governor between 1999 and 2003.

Kogi is among five states which did not hold governorship election in April because of a court ruling that extended the tenure of the incumbents.

It is near Benue, Nassarawa and Plateau states, which lie in the so-called middle belt region between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south of Nigeria.

The region has seen a cycle of deadly violence and reprisal attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives in recent months.

The PDP of President Goodluck Jonathan is now in charge of 24 of Nigeria's 36 states. The ruling party was in control of 27 states before the April vote.

The result of the presidential election won by Jonathan, a Christian from the southern oil-producing region, sparked rioting in northern Nigeria that left at least 800 people dead, according to Human Rights Watch.