- INEC cites operational difficulties
By Charles Ajunwa and Ahamefula Ogbu in Lagos, Adedayo Akinwale and Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
Citing operational difficulties, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), after a meeting in Abuja that lasted till early this morning, announced the postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections earlier slated for today.
The INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who addressed journalists after the meeting, at about 2:44a.m., said the Presidential and National Assembly elections would now hold on February 23.
A visibly worried INEC boss, who addressed the press with some of his national commissioners, said: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met on Friday, 15th February 2019 and reviewed its preparations for the 2019 general elections scheduled for Saturday, 16th February 2019.
“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.
“Consequently, the Commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly elections to Saturday, 23rdFebruary 2019.
“Furthermore, the Governorship, State House of Assembly and 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 a consolidation of our democracy.
“The Commission will meet with key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2p.m. on Saturday, 16th February 2019 at the Abuja International Conference Centre.”
In its swift response, the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus said that shoddy arrangement for this election by INEC 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 in a statement Saturday by his media aide, Mr. Ike Abonyi, warned that the party would not accept anything short of a well organised electoral process devoid of manipulation, harassment and intimidation of voters and the opposition particularly members of the PDP.
He insisted that the postponement was part of a grand design by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to thwart the will of Nigerians at all cost, adding that it clearly exposes INEC as a failure, while also calling for the immediate resignation of INEC chairman.
He stressed, “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.
“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.”
In the last few days, there have been many incidents where materials and electronic devices for the conduct of the elections were either destroyed or stolen.
In Plateau State, a drunk security man was alleged to have set the INEC office ablaze, thereby imperiling the exercise by destroying sensitive materials, card readers and other election-ready materials.
Also in Abia State, unknown arsonists torched the Obi Ngwa INEC office where Permanent Voters Cards, computers and other materials were destroyed while in Anambra, an entire card reader for the state and other materials were destroyed by mystery fire.
In Niger State, election materials had not been received as at Friday afternoon while in Taraba, though assurances were being given that they would be delivered, they allegedly waited in vain for them.
There were reports that some of the materials for some states were hijacked making it impossible for INEC to cover up for such destroyed or lost materials.
In a related development, a statement by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) titled “The rampage has started” alleged that “the security forces of President Muhammadu Buhari has started implementing a script by sabotaging INEC and ensuring their election materials were stolen or destroyed.”
The statement by Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere said election materials in 10 out of the 36 states were either burnt or stolen, alleging that the government wanted to create an impression that election could not go on simultaneously in all the states so that they could stagger it and ensure that there were enough security men to rig in states where the ruling party was weak.
PDP Accuses INEC of Hoarding Presidential, Senatorial Election Result Sheets
Meanwhile, prior to the postponement of the election, the PDP accused INEC of hoarding the presidential and senatorial elections result sheets for undisclosed reasons.
The party also revealed that its monitoring and intelligence showed that INEC had been distributing sensitive election materials in most states of the federation without the Presidential and Senatorial elections results sheets.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said that the party’s agents were being denied the INEC accreditation and identification cards, ostensibly to shut them out of the election monitoring process and allow the APC a field day to manipulate the process.
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 centres.”
The PDP also rejected alleged substitution of the already trained INEC adhoc staff in various states of the federation with members of the APC.
The party said that PDP would never allow “this unscrupulous attempt at power hijack to stand.”
He stated, “This surreptitious ploy to use APC members as polling staff is a direct template by the APC in collusion with some INEC officials, to rig the elections for the APC.
“This affront to the collective quest by the people for a credible election is akin to sitting our nation on a keg of gunpowder.”
Ahmed Raji: It is Better to Get it Right Than to Have Wishy Washy Election
Reacting to the postponement, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ahmed Raji, noted that if the postponement was towards achieving a credible, free and acceptable election, it is in order. According to him, if the reason for the postponment is actually on logistics as it is being said, it is okay instead of the Commission to go ahead and conduct an election that would put it to ridicule both locally and internationally.
Raji, while stating that it is high time Nigerians begin to see election as a process, observed that budgetary allocation for the elections came a little bit late.
According to him election materials are not things people just pick from the shop, hence the commission needs adequate time to plan and arrange for some of this materials.