Amid potentially dangerous allegations from the opposition and serious logistics challenges, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has shifted this Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections to Saturday, February 23.
This decision was reached in the wee hours of today at a meeting the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had with the 12 national commissioners in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital metropolis.
Yakubu explained that the shift was mainly as a result of logistics challenges encountered by the commission. ‘’Following a careful review, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections will not be feasible’’, he said.
He explained that the decision was taken in order to give the country a free, fair and credible exercise, adding, ‘’furthermore, the governorship and state Houses of Assembly and FCT elections will hold on Saturday March 9.’’
According to the big boss of the electoral agency, ‘’INEC met on Friday, February 15, 2019 and reviewed its preparation for the 2019 general elections scheduled for Saturday, February 16, and Saturday, March 2.
‘’Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plans and its determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible.
‘’Consequently, the commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential/National Assembly elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019. Furthermore, the Governorship/State House of Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections are rescheduled to Saturday, 9th March 2019.
‘’This will afford the Commission the opportunity to address identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of our elections. This was a difficult decision for the commission to take but necessary for the successful delivery of elections and consolidation of our democracy.
‘’The Commission will meet with key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2 P.M at the Abuja International Conference Centre.’’
Before this development, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had cried out loud to all who cared to listen, alleging their agents were being denied the INEC accreditation and identification cards, ostensibly to shut them out of the election monitoring process and allegedly allow the All Progressives Congress (APC) a field day to manipulate the process.
This came as SaharaReporters reported that most of the names shortlisted as ad hoc staff in Adamawa State, the home state of the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, have been replaced at the last minute. The news platform quoted a source at INEC for the story.
“Most of the people who were originally shortlisted just woke up on Thursday morning to discover that their names had been removed and replaced with names, majority of which were Muslims,” he said. “The replacements were most evident in Metropolitan Local Government in Yola North.”
The source also raised the alarm about the possibility of inadequate supply of sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the conduct of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.
Speaking exclusively with SaharaReporters, the source said “as of midnight on Thursday, both sensitive and non-sensitive materials delivered to Adamawa State were inadequate”.
“You may wish to call the Resident Electoral Commissioner for confirmation. Please ask him to give you figures categorically. I’m telling you in all sincerity, ballot papers as brought to Adamawa are not complete. By the way, the situation is the same, virtually in all the states. You can find out,” he said.
However, Kashim Gaidam, the Adamawa REC, denied the claim, saying: “As I speak with you, I’m at CBN supervising the release of materials for the conduct of the election. Be rest assured materials have been supplied enough for the exercise tomorrow.”
Efforts to contact political parties were not successful as calls directed to the mobile phones of Tahir Shehu, the PDP Chairman in the state, and Mohammed Abdullahi, the state APC Publicity Secretary, for clarification were both rejected.
In the mean time, PDP also alleged that INEC was hoarding the presidential and senatorial elections result sheets for undisclosed reasons.
Spokesman of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan,says PDP is monitoring and intelligence show that INEC has been distributing sensitive election materials in most states of the federation without the Presidential and Senatorial elections results sheets.
According to him, ‘’the development is already heightening tension and suspicion of underhand method by the commission to open the elections for manipulations and allow the APC to enter fictitious results for onward transmission to collation centers.
‘’Intelligence available to us indicate that this is part of the plot for which President Muhammadu Buhari’s relation by marriage, Mrs. Amina Zakari, has been retained as the head of the INEC collation center.’’
PDP was therefore, cautioning INEC to show its impartiality by immediately releasing the Presidential and senatorial elections result sheet as well as the accreditation cards. Any further delay will be a clear recipe for crisis as Nigerians are already highly agitated over the matter.
‘’INEC should note that Nigerians are very anxious about this election and any action that, in anyway, portrays or tends to portray the process as being manipulated is capable of triggering a crisis of unprecedented proportion in our country’’, PDP said.