Nigeria’s electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained its reasons for postponing the general elections a few hours to the commencement.
“Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair, and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible,” INEC boss Mahmood Yakubu said at a press briefing on Saturday morning in Abuja.
The general elections were scheduled to commence Saturday, February 16 with the presidential and National Assembly elections.
Yakubu said the presidential and National Assembly elections have been rescheduled to hold on February 23 while the governorship and state houses of assembly elections will take place on March 9.
It was not the first time that INEC would postpone a scheduled general election.
In 2015, the presidential election was shifted from February 14 to March 28th, 2015, while the governorship and assembly elections scheduled for 28 February were shifted to 11 April. The elections were postponed because of security issues.
Similarly, in 2011, the National Assembly elections were postponed on the day the election was to be held due to logistics failure. The same situation was repeated in 2019.
Polling centres were initially meant to open Saturday at 8:00 a.m. with more than 84 million registered voters across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The postponement may heighten tensions in what has been a tight race between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, and his main challenger from the People’s Democratic Party Atiku Abubakar. The political parties of both candidates have accused each other of trying to rig the vote.
Prior to the election date, INEC offices in three states of the country- Plateau, Abia and recently Anambra, were engulfed by fire outbreaks, all within ten days to Nigeria’s 2019 general elections.
Despite fire outbreaks at three offices of INEC that has claimed thousands of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) and other election equipment, the Nigeria electoral body had said it has no plans to postpone the elections.
But INEC reversed the decision. INEC chairman Yakubu said, “This was a difficult decision for the Commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of our democracy.”