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Saturday, February 27, 1999 Published at 19:45 GMT

World: Africa

Abubakar fails to vote

General Abubakar: Five minutes late

Nigeria's military ruler General Abdulsalami Abubakar was stopped from voting in the country's presidential elections because he arrived late to register.

Nigeria elections
Mr Abubakar arrived at the polling station outside his Aso Rock office at 1105 (1005 GMT), five minutes after voter registration was supposed to end.

The military ruler collected his voter card which was stamped and waited in line to vote.

But a journalist challenged whether he should be allowed to vote, having arrived after the registration deadline. Eventually, electoral officials told the general he could not cast his ballot.

But a BBC correspondent says the general's late arrival may have been deliberate so that he was not seen supporting one particular party.

Request for 'sporting spirit'

Speaking after the incident, General Abubakar - who has repeatedly said he is determined to return a civilian to the presidency - appealed to the two candidates to accept the final result in a sporting spirit.

He expressed delight with the level of participation in the election and said he was delighted that the process of voting in the transition programme has been concluded peacefully.

He called on all Nigerians, especially politicians, to join the "crusade to forestall military incursion in the politics of Nigeria by establishing good governance", the rule of law and respect for human rights.

General Abubakar repeated his vow to hand over power to the winner: "I've put in my best for my country, and I'm going home to rest."

He said he looked forward to his retirement from the Nigerian Army.

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