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Huge fire at Gamboru Market in Maiduguri causes panic among voters during gubernatorial elections

18 March 2023
Reading time: 6 minutes

Apart from the terrifying market fire, the gubernatorial elections in northern Nigeria ran far more smoothly and peacefully than the presidential elections three weeks ago. 

A huge fire gutted the second-largest market in Maiduguri on Saturday as residents were casting their votes for the next governor of Borno State and for members of the state’s house of assembly.

It was not known yet how the fire at Gamboru Market started.

But startled and worried voters, many of them consumers and traders at the market, expressed dismay and stood staring as large billows of black smoke filled the air.

Residents were particularly perturbed and panicked because a fire, described as an inferno, broke out and gutted the Monday Market, the biggest market in Maiduguri, in the early hours of Sunday, February 26, the day after the presidential elections three weeks ago.
Incredulous spectators told RNI they were suspicious that two fires had broken out at the city’s biggest markets at election time.

The Gamboru Market is the biggest perishable goods market in the city and most of the traders and consumers are internally displaced persons (IDPs). It was closed on Saturday because of the elections. However, it was estimated that goods worth millions of naira went up in flames.

Apart from the devasting fire, the gubernatorial elections in the north of the country appeared to be far better organised than the presidential elections.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, as well as the electorate, said the voting was much easier and ran far more smoothly and peacefully than the general elections on Saturday, February 25.


Mohammed Nur Umar from Jere told RNI that he had successfully cast his ballot at the polling unit in Lawanti Galtimari 2 in the Bale Galtimari ward of the Jere Local Government Area.

INEC officials arrived on time and everything was ready and set up early for voters. The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System [BVAS] device and the INEC Result Viewing portal, used to accredit and electronically collate and upload election results, worked perfectly, unlike during the presidential elections, he said.

“Even though there were many voters and the queue was long, everyone voted and everything went off smoothly and peacefully.”

Ahmad Umar said he had “absolutely no problems” voting in the Bolori ward in Maiduguri.

“Lots of people turned out to vote but it was peaceful and uneventful. People stuck to the rules and voting went smoothly. I am happy to say that the BVAS machines were fully functional.”
Mallam Hassan from Maiduguri said INEC officials were punctual and professional.

“I came early in the morning and I was accredited and cast my ballot without wasting time unlike in the recently concluded presidential elections.”
Hassan said he was a little disappointed that so few people had turned out to vote.

Jidda Adam from Maiduguri said he had voted at the polling unit in Ngomari.
“Men and women came out in great numbers to exercise their civic responsibilities. INEC officials were there on time and the BVAS machines worked perfectly. It was organised and voting went smoothly.”

RNI reporters throughout northern Nigeria said although voting went smoothly in most areas, the turnout – like that for the presidential elections – had been lower than expected.


Baba Gana Karagama from Machina town said voting was started at the stipulated time and INEC staff members were efficient and professional.

“More people – mostly men – came to vote, more than there were for the presidential elections when the turnout was very low. I saw a lot more people at the polling unit for this election.”
Shettima Modu Lawan said: “I successfully cast my vote for the candidate of my choice at my polling unit. The gubernatorial elections were conducted peacefully and in an orderly manner. The INEC officials arrived on time and there were no delays. Compared with the general elections, I can honestly say this election was far better organised.”

Amina Modu said she voted at the polling unit of Talbari. It took quite a long time because of the long queues but other than that it was peaceful and well run.

Fatima Abba agreed, saying that the gubernatorial elections were much better organised and peaceful.

“Even the INEC officials were punctual and I had no problem casting my vote.”
Lawan Machina said that in the area of Yobe State where he cast his ballot there were far many more voters that for the presidential elections.

“I saw far more voters, particularly women, this time. There were far fewer voters who turned out for the presidential elections. I think one of the reasons was that after the general elections INEC arranged a massive public awareness programme and that encouraged more people to exercise their right to vote.”


Umar Bukar Gaji, RNI’s correspondent in Adamawa State, said voters were compliant and stuck to the rules. The residents of Geire, Madagali, Yola and Jimeta, among other local government areas of Adamawa State successfully participated in the elections which, he said were peaceful and ran smoothly.
“INEC officials arrived on time at most of the polling units across the state and voting began at the stipulated time.

“There was a massive turnout of voters, especially women, compared with the numbers for the presidential elections. Residents said the massive turnout of the women was because women had a connection with Aisha Dahiru Binami of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), in Adamawa state, the only woman standing for governor. Most of the women were extremely optimistic and felt certain that she would be victorious.”

Gaji said there were reports of a few cases of “vote buying”. Some people were bribed to vote for certain parties at a cost of ₦500 to ₦1,000.

“However, the large presence of security operatives, comprising soldiers, police and civil defence members, ensured peace and security.”


Borno State governor Babagana Zulum is one of 11 governors standing for reelection. He is a member of the APC and is the ruling party contestant.
The other governors seeking reelection are: Ahmadu Fintiri for Adamawa State, Bala Mohammed for Bauchi State,  Muhammad Inuwa for Gombe State, Mai Mala Buni for Yobe State, Bello Matawalle for Zamfara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State, Abdullahi Sule for Nasarawa State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu for Lagos State, Dapo Abiodun for Ogun State and, Seyi Makinde for Oyo State


The 2023 gubernatorial elections were held in 28 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria. The 28 stares are Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.

Elections were not held in Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Osun and Ondo states where governor elections will be held “off-season” because of litigations and court judgments.
For places in the various states’ houses of assembly there were a total of 933 candidates.


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