Nigeria panel confirms elections will take place on Saturday
Abuja, Feb. 21 (PTI/AFP): Nigeria’s rescheduled presidential and parliamentary elections will take place this weekend, the electoral commission said on Thursday, adding there would be not be a second delay.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced a one-week postponement last Saturday, 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 Saturday’s election, 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.