ABUJA, Nigeria, Mar 27 – President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday urged Nigerians to turn out in force to vote in this weekend’s presidential election, calling for calm in the face of rising tensions and fears of violence.
“I urge you all to troop out en masse to peacefully perform your civic duty of voting for leaders of your choice tomorrow (Saturday),” he said in a televised address.
Africa’s most populous nation goes to the polls with the election being seen as the closest in its history, with Jonathan facing a strong challenge from the main opposition’s Muhammadu Buhari.
Some 1,000 people were killed in clashes after the last election in 2011 when Jonathan defeated Buhari, and there are fears of a repeat this time round.
Land and sea ports were shut at midnight on Wednesday (2300 GMT) until the end of voting and an eight-hour restriction on vehicles on the roads is being put in place from when polls open at 8am on Saturday.
Nigerians have in recent days being queuing for fuel at filling stations and bulk buying water and groceries as a precaution in the event of election-linked violence. READ: Nigeria’s Jonathan takes election campaign to key oil region.
Many offices and shops were shut on Friday or staff were sent home early.
In the southern oil city of Port Harcourt, security was tight around the local offices of the electoral commission and government buildings, as final preparations were made.
Voting materials were being labelled for distribution to polling centres in the state, which is seen as a key battleground as it is controlled by the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Jonathan, who hails from neighbouring Bayelsa state, enjoys support in Port Harcourt, where he was educated, and voters were keen for a peaceful election after several incidents of violence.
“I have my PVC (permanent voters card) and on Saturday will exercise my civic duty,” said Nkechi Nwoke, a 42-year-old tailor. “I want the election to be free and fair.”