Nigeria polls shifted till February 23 as shoddy logistics hit electoral body

Opposition demands resignation of electoral commission boss
Elections body Chairman Nigeria
Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, speaks during the announcement of the postponement of the 2019 presidential election at the electoral body headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary polls have been shifted by a week till February 23, leaving many citizens disenchanted with the electoral process, after waking up to the sad news early Saturday.

The leadership of Nigeria’s election management body, INEC reached the crucial decision following a logistics nightmare arising from poor distribution of sensitive voting materials, after an emergency meeting due to massive complaints.

“Consequently, the Commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019.” INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu said in a national broadcast.

Addressing eager journalists who laid siege for hours at the commission’s Abuja headquarters early Saturday, the electoral commission boss also said INEC would use the period to correct the logistics lapses.

“Furthermore, the Governorship, State House of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Councils Elections is rescheduled to Saturday 9th March 2019. This will afford the Commission the opportunity to address identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of our elections.”

Seven states mostly affected

About seven states across the country had been grappling with late arrival of ballot papers which remained in transit due to their sensitive nature or were partially delivered with some of the affected states having Presidential ballot papers but no Senatorial and House of Representatives ballot papers or vice versa.

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Sources at INEC had earlier confirmed to News Central the massive distribution challenges facing the electoral body but said they did not anticipate a wholesale cancellation of the entire election, as at then.

One of INEC’s officers heading the northern state of Niger had Friday confirmed the delay in logistics delivery of key voting materials, to his team.

Samuel Egwu, Resident Electoral Commissioner for the state at a briefing with journalists in the capital city of Minna, said he had hinted higher authorities in Abuja.

“The issue has been reported to INEC’s Headquarters in Abuja for urgent attention. The officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria saddled with the responsibility of securing the electoral sensitive materials have gone to Abuja for the last batch of the sensitive materials for Saturday’s elections in the state, so we are waiting.”

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Same challenges were also reported in the southern states of Edo, Bayelsa, Enugu and Ebonyi.

Opposition demands resignation of electoral commission boss stating that Nigeria’s polls shouldn’t be shifted.

The major opposition party has now asked the INEC Chairman to take responsibility for the failures and resign his position.

“The postponement which is part of a grand design by the All Progressives Congress, to thwart the will of Nigerians at all cost, clearly exposes INEC as a failure and I call on the Chairman of the Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu to resign immediately.” Uche Secondus, National Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party said in a statement rejecting the new date.

Atiku Abubakar, major contender and candidate of the PDP also described the postponement as unhealthy while accusing his opponent incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of petty politics aimed at creating voter apathy.

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“The Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date. Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers.”

The ruling All Progressives Congress is yet to comment. Members and supporters said they were awaiting a formal communication by the party’s leadership now that Nigeria’s polls is shifted.

Bashir Ahmad is the Personal Assistant to President Buhari
on New Media and the Coordinator of the Buhari Centre

Nigeria has had a recent history of postponing national elections. In 2015, it shifted its presidential and parliamentary polls from February 14 to March 28.

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