Nigeria panel confirms elections will take place on February 23

Agence France-Presse
'There won't be another postponement. The commission does not envisage there will be a postponement of the election scheduled for 9th March,' the Independent National Electoral Commission says

ELECTIONS. Rickshaws emblazoned with campaign posters bearing images of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party election candidate Atiku Abubakar and his running mate Peter Obi stand on a road in Abuja on February 19, 2019, ahead of rescheduled general elections. Photo by Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP

ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria’s rescheduled presidential and parliamentary elections will take place this weekend, the electoral commission said on Thursday, February 21, adding there would be not be a second delay.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced a one-week postponement last Saturday, February 16, just hours before polls were due to open, triggering widespread anger.

Logistical issues in the delivery of ballot papers and election material were blamed, leading to a scramble to be ready in time for the new date.

In an update on preparations, INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu told a news conference in the capital, Abuja, that the panel was “fully on course” for voting this weekend.

Election materials had already been delivered to 19 out of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, he said.

All states bar one would have received them by the end of the day, he added.

“I want to reassure you that elections will hold on Saturday,” Yakubu told reporters.

“There won’t be another postponement. The commission does not envisage there will be a postponement of the election scheduled for 9th March.”

President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking a second term of office in the election on Saturday, February 23, at which just over 84 million people are registered to vote.

Nigeria’s main political parties have accused the other of conspiring with INEC to rig the result, with competing claims of sabotage.

The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of seeking to use dead voters, foreigners and manipulating the electoral roll.

INEC itself denies any political interference. “There is no feeling in the commission of sabotage,” said Yakubu.

All parties and candidates have signed an agreement to conduct peaceful elections and to respect the vote but there has been a marked change in tone since the postponement.

The PDP in particular has opposed Buhari’s call for the police and military to be “ruthless” with vote-riggers and ballot-snatchers.

Buhari and the APC said the move was justified to curb election violence, in a move backed by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai.

The PDP said that was a “recipe for crisis.” The party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, likened Buhari’s order to “the era of dictatorship and military rule.”

INEC’s Yakubu acknowledged the issue and said the police were the main security agency with responsibility for election security.

But he said the military could be called in at the request of the police. –