The Independent National Electoral Commission in Nigeria (INEC) on Friday night announced a shift in the general elections dates to February 23 and March 9 respectively.
The new schedule was announced by the Chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, early Saturday morning after an emergency meeting with security officials, election observers and other political stakeholders.
He said the postponement was due to logistic and operational reasons.
According to him, the new dates for the elections are 23 February and 9 March for the Presidential and National Assembly, as well as the governorship, state houses of assembly and FCT Area Council elections respectively.
It would be recalled that the Presidential/National Assembly Election was initially billed for today February 16 while the Governorship/States Assemblies election was billed for Saturday, March 2.
According to Prof. Yakubu, “the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the election is no longer feasible.”
He added that “This was a difficult decision for the commission to take but necessary” for the success of the elections.
The National Assembly had in October last year approved the sum of N242.245bn for this year’s elections.
Out of the amount, INEC got N189bn, while the police was allocated N27.3bn. The DSS got N10.2bn; NSA’s office, N9.4bn; N2.628bn for Nigerian Immigration Service, and N3.573bn for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
The INEC Chairman Addressed the Press at 2:30am
“The meeting lasted nearly six hours because those in attendance differed. The INEC chairman and his commissioners took time and reviewed the situation critically, including the implications,” a source said. “Some of the people in attendance agreed that the election should go ahead on Monday but at the end of the day they agreed on one week to foreclose any other obstruction,” he added.
The decision to postpone the election was reached last night after the commission’s National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, alongside some national commissioners held meetings with security agencies, election observers and security chiefs.
Credible sources told Daily Trust Saturday last night that despite several efforts, the electoral empire could not fully mobilize sensitive materials to some parts of the country, especially in the South East, South South, South West and North Central. While some of the materials have been assembled at the commission’s warehouses in Abuja, it was not possible to take them to some states.
“The commission is also working hand-in-hand with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which is the official custodian of the sensitive materials but it seems it is also overstretched,” he said. Besides, a source said efforts made by the commission to meet up with the shortfall of card readers burnt by fire outbreaks could not be met. Sensitive INEC documents were burnt in fires that destroyed three of its local government offices in Abia, Plateau and Anambra states, a development which INEC described as serious setbacks ahead of the elections.
On February 3, some miscreants set ablaze INEC’s office at Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State. On February 9, INEC’s office at Qua’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau also went up in flames. Head of INEC’s Voter Education and Publicity in the state Osaretin Imahiyereobo said the fire was caused by the negligence of a security man on duty who didn’t know how to operate the generator but wanted to put it on.
Items such as ballot boxes, generators filled with fuel, cubicles, newly printed electronic and manual voters register, uncollected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), materials for the preparations of RAC and other valuable materials were affected. On February 12, INEC confirmed that 4,695 Smart Card Readers were destroyed in an inferno that occurred in its office in Awka, Anambra State.
Mr. Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, said that though the incident was a serious setback to the commission’s preparation for the smooth conduct of the elections, he said measures had been taken to ameliorate the situation. He said the commission would mop up some of the spare card readers from other states to deploy to Anambra for smooth conduct of the general elections.
But a source at INEC said the commission could not meet the required number needed in Anambra. “The card readers so far mopped up are not enough to replace all those lost to the inferno in Anambra,” he said. “Remember, every state will need some extra card readers for exigency purposes and most importantly, a lot of reconfigurations must be conducted,” he said.
Another source said sensitive materials could not be taken to some locations. “The ballots are equally customized and serialized; you can’t just take what is meant for Bauchi for instance to Anambra,” the source added.
It was also gathered that there was bad weather which affected visibility that denied aircrafts to land at the Enugu Airport which was originally meant as landing point for some sensitive materials for states in the South East. “For instance, some aircrafts landed in Port Harcourt in the South South with election materials instead of Enugu because of bad weather. These materials were first taken to the Central Bank for safe keeping before onward delivery to the South East,” he said.