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What APC, PDP said as INEC postpone elections

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.

Parties react

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.

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Why we postponed general elections – INEC

Nigeria’s electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained its reasons for postponing the general elections a few hours to the commencement.

“Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair, and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible,” INEC boss Mahmood Yakubu said at a press briefing on Saturday morning in Abuja.

The general elections were scheduled to commence Saturday, February 16 with the presidential and National Assembly elections.

Yakubu said the presidential and National Assembly elections have been rescheduled to hold on February 23 while the governorship and state houses of assembly elections will take place on March 9.

It was not the first time that INEC would postpone a scheduled general election.

In 2015, the presidential election was shifted from February 14 to March 28th, 2015, while the governorship and assembly elections scheduled for 28 February were shifted to 11 April. The elections were postponed because of security issues.

Similarly, in 2011, the National Assembly elections were postponed on the day the election was to be held due to logistics failure. The same situation was repeated in 2019.

Polling centres were initially meant to open Saturday at 8:00 a.m. with more than 84 million registered voters across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The postponement may heighten tensions in what has been a tight race between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, and his main challenger from the People’s Democratic Party Atiku Abubakar. The political parties of both candidates have accused each other of trying to rig the vote.

Prior to the election date, INEC offices in three states of the country- Plateau, Abia and recently Anambra, were engulfed by fire outbreaks, all within ten days to Nigeria’s 2019 general elections.

Despite fire outbreaks at three offices of INEC that has claimed thousands of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) and other election equipment, the Nigeria electoral body had said it has no plans to postpone the elections.

But INEC reversed the decision. INEC chairman Yakubu said, “This was a difficult decision for the Commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of our democracy.”

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PDP asks INEC chairman to resign, accuses APC of ‘grand conspiracy’

The national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Uche Secondus, has asked the Mahmood Yakubu to resign as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Speaking through Ike Abonyi, his media aide, shortly after the elections were postponed by INEC, Secondus said his party was rejecting the new dates.

He said it was a “deliberate, pre-determined agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari to cling on to power even when it’s obvious to him that Nigerians want him out”.

Secondus said the postponement was part of a “grand design” by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to thwart the will of Nigerians “at all cost”.

He said the APC “in connivance with INEC have been trying all options including but not limited to burning down INEC offices in some states and destroying of electoral materials to create artificial problems upon which to stand for their dubious act”.

“With several of their rigging options failing, they have to force INEC to agree to a shift in the election or a staggered election with flimsy excuses pre-manufactured for the purpose,” he said in the statement sent to TheCable.

“For the avoidance of doubt the PDP sees this action as wicked and we are also aware of other dubious designs like the deployment of hooded security operatives who would be ruthless on the people ostensibly to scare them away.”

Secondus said the “wicked killing” of over 60 persons mostly women and children in southern Kaduna on the eve of election “is a copious ploy by the APC to frighten the people away from voting knowing too well that they were not going to record any vote from the area”.

“Recall that the Governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai had earlier threatened international election observers of going to their country in body bags and with the fatal violence in the state on the eve of election, it’s clear what the motives are, to frighten the observers from the state so that he can carry out his nefarious acts,” he said.

The PDP chairman also drew the attention to the statement of President Muhammadu Buhari that nobody can unseat him from office as an indication of what he wanted to do.