The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Mahmood Yakubu announced that the elections have been postponed for one week just hours away from the opening of the polls.
The chairman cited logistical issues as one of the major causes of the postponement, “Proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible”, said Yakubu. He added that the decision to delay the election was made after “a careful review” of the election “operation plan” and that there was a “determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections”. The announcement followed an emergency meeting at the INEC headquarters in Abuja. Mr. Yakubu said the delay will allow the electoral commission enough time to address vital issues and “maintain the quality of our elections”.
Presidential and parliamentary polls had been initially scheduled to start today at 0700hrs GMT in nearly 120,000 polling stations across Nigeria. They have now been rescheduled for Saturday 23rd February while polls for Governorship, state assembly and federal area council will take place on Saturday 9th March.
There is a record 73 presidential candidates on the ballot though the main race between
President Muhammadu Buhari who is seeking a second term in office and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, the main opposition candidate.
Both the ruling political party, All Progressive Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have condemned the move to postpone the elections while accusing each other of trying to manipulate the vote.
Parliamentary elections to fill 360 seats of the lower House of Representatives and the 109 seats of the senate will all be held on the same day.
Several INEC offices have been burnt in the past two weeks destroying thousands of electronic smart card readers and voter cards. Shortages of election material have also been reported in some states.
According to reports, there had been a planned shutdown in the whole country as travel was restricted to allow the voting process to run smoothly. People were just left with two options, either to stay home or to go and vote. Other people had already traveled to places where they were registered to vote and now they face a dilemma of what they are going to do for the next week now that they have to wait.
The presidential election is the most highly contested and it has caused anxiety among people as they wait to see who will win this race. Nigerians are waiting for whoever will win to address their most pressing issues including power shortages, corruption, security problems and the sluggish economy.
Repeat of history?
This has not been the first time Nigeria has postponed elections, the same thing happened in 2011 and 2015 elections. In 2015, presidential and parliamentary elections were postponed just one week to voting with officials citing security concerns and reports that foreigners were planning to cross into the country to vote.