World News

Nigeria elections: Explosions heard hours before presidential vote

Posted February 23, 2019 6:55 a.m. EST

— Multiple bomb blasts rocked the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri just hours before presidential polls opened on Saturday.

The explosions happened at a camp for internally displaced refugees at around 5 a.m. local time Friday, Nigerian army spokesman Onyeama Nwachukwu, told CNN. There were no reports of any deaths or injuries.

"There was an attack this morning at the camp by the militants, but the military has suppressed it at the moment," Nwachukwu said, adding that the army was still assessing the situation.

Journalist Simpa Samson told CNN the militants targeted the Teacher's Village camp in the Maiduguri capital of Borno State.

"The military secured the place almost immediately and has stopped our cameraman from filming, no one was hurt because the bombs landed outside the premises," Samson told CNN.

Security is often a concern in the city of Maiduguri, which has been a frequent target of terror group Boko Haram. The city also has a large population of internally displaced refugees.

The blasts came as people in Nigeria prepared to cast their ballots on Saturday, a week after the country's presidential and parliamentary elections were unexpectedly postponed mere hours before polling stations were due to open. It was the third consecutive vote to be delayed in Africa's largest democracy.

The incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, 76, is running against 71 other candidates but his main challenger is Atiku Abubakar, a 72-year-old business tycoon and former vice president. They are both Muslim candidates from the north of the country.

When Buhari, a former military ruler, was elected in 2015 it was the first peaceful transition of power in the country. He promised to be a new broom, offering a clean sweep of the old routine but many have been left disillusioned and angry at the rising levels of inequality and extreme poverty.

Concerns over election-related violence

The delay to the vote increased tensions and there were some instances of violence in the lead-up, prompting warnings from the British and US governments that they would deny visas to, and could prosecute, anyone found inciting violence during the election.

Last week, a terror group with links to ISIS claimed responsibility for a deadly attack in Maiduguri on a motorcade carrying state governor Kashim Shettima.

Shettima escaped unscathed and Isa Gusau, his media aide, told CNN on Thursday that the ambush killed three people, although locals put the figures much higher. The terror group claimed that 42 people died in the assault.

The Islamic State's West Africa Province terror group, a breakaway faction of the Boko Haram militant group, has staged a number of high-profile attacks in recent months.

While people in some parts of the country were being registered to vote early Saturday, others were left frustrated as electoral officials hadn't showed up.