Nigeria’s two main political parties have condemned a decision by the country’s electoral authority to delay presidential and national assembly elections by one week.
Polls were due to open at 8 a.m. on Saturday, February 16, and will now take place on Saturday, February 23, authorities said.
“Following a careful review of the implementation of the logistics and operational plan, and the 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,” the chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, said at a news conference early Saturday.
“This was a difficult decision for the commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of elections and the consolidation of our democracy,” he said.
Elections for governorships, state House of Assembly and area councils are on hold until March 9, the INEC said.
The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) accused each other of using the delay to their advantage.
“We condemn the postponement of the elections, but urge our teeming supporters to be patient and determined,” a statement released Saturday by incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidential Campaign Council read.
It said Buhari had fully cooperated with the INEC and that the council hoped the commission would “remain neutral and impartial in this process” and not collude with the PDP.
The statement alleged hat the PDP was “never ready for this election,” and accused the party of using the postponement to “orchestrate more devious strategies to try and half President Buhari’s momentum.”
Opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar of the PDP said in a statement on Friday that Buhari’s administration has had “more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections” and accused his opponent of delaying the vote in “hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low” on the new polling date.
Abubakar urged voters to come out in even greater numbers on February 23, adding that the APC “are desperate and will do anything in their power to avoid” being rejected by the Nigerian people.
“You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny,” he said.