The governorship polls were held after deadly post-election violence in the country [AFP]

Nigeria's ruling party has lost control of at least two states in governorship elections, according to early results, although it has performed strongly in some parts of the mostly Muslim north.

With results in on Wednesday from half of the 24 states in which governorship elections were held, the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) held on to seven but lost two - Ogun in the southwest and Nasarawa in the centre.

But it won Kano, the most populous state in the north, from the opposition and swept all assembly seats in the northern state of Sokoto.

Lagos, the commercial capital, remained the southwestern stronghold of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as expected while the northern state of Yobe remained in the hands of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

The state governorship races, which began on Tuesday, are the final stage in elections which have seen some of the worst political violence in years in Nigeria.

Rioting left hundreds dead in the mostly Muslim north last week after president Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian, beat his northern rival, Muhammadu Buhari, in the presidential vote.

The state governors are among the most powerful politicians in Nigeria, wielding influence over national policy and in some cases controlling budgets larger than small African nations, and the ruling party is keen to maintain its strong regional grip.

'Reports of violence'

Ballot-box snatching and intimidation marred Tuesday's votes in some parts of Nigeria, but there was nothing on the scale of the violence last week which followed the presidential election.

"Although in general there was low turnout, reports from observers indicate that the elections were well organised and largely peaceful in many states," the Election Situation Room, a grouping of more than 20 civil society groups, said in a statement.

"In other states, however, there were considerable reports of violence, ballot-box snatching and other forms of electoral malpractice."

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, with more than 150 million people, is split almost equally between a mainly Muslim north and a majority Christian south, although large minority groups live in both regions.

The series of elections began with a parliamentary vote which was delayed by administrative chaos, followed by the presidential ballot.

A successful conclusion of the elections, judged so far to have been the most credible since a return to democracy in 1999, could boost Nigeria's world standing and attract investment.

Source: Agencies