INEC: Polls’ Postponement not Politically Influenced

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• Outrage, shock, disbelief trail shift
• Buhari: I’m deeply disappointed
• Atiku: they can’t postpone destiny
• Moghalu: it’s a manifestation of recycled failure
• Donald Duke: it’s a national disgrace
• Saraki tells Nigerians not to be deterred
• You’ve disgraced us, Oshiomhole tells INEC Buhari shedding crocodile tears – Secondus
• Tinubu: it’s painful, but Nigerians must remain committed • We’re confounded, says NBA
• ACF condemns shift
• ECOWAS, AU, EU, UK others call for calm

Our Correspondents
As indignation, surprise, and disbelief continue to dominate reactions to the postponement of yesterday’s presidential and National Assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the commission has said there is no political motive behind its action. INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, stated this at a press conference yesterday in Abuja. Yakubu cited logistic problems as reason for the deferment of the general election to February 23.

The electoral body had in the early hours of Saturday announced its decision to reschedule the general election by one week, with Presidential and National Assembly elections earlier scheduled for February 16 shifted to Saturday, February 23, while Governorship, State Assembly and FCT Area Council elections earlier scheduled for March 2 would now hold on Saturday, March 9.
But many Nigerians were not persuaded of the cogency of the commission’s basis for the election postponement.
However, in a further explanation at a press conference yesterday, INEC insisted the postponement of the election was not politically motivated and had nothing to do with security concerns. It said the shift was unfortunate, yet necessary in the overall interest of Nigeria.

But, fielding questions from journalists in Abuja yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), expressed his disappointment at the postponement of the polls, saying the action underscores INEC’s inefficiency.
The presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Moghalu, Senate President Bukola Saraki, and APC national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, were among prominent Nigerians who reacted to the poll shift yesterday.

Postponement not politically influenced – INEC
Trying to absolve itself from allegations of political manipulation, INEC told a press conference it addressed after a meeting with stakeholders that in the last one week, flights within the country had been adversely affected by bad weather, which made it impossible for it to deliver materials to some locations.
Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said the one week adjustment was painful but necessary in the overall interest of the country’s democracy. Yakubu said the commission had implemented 13 of the 14 activities in the timetable and schedule of activities for the elections, which it issued on January 9 last year.

Despite the postponement of the general election by one week, INEC said campaign and distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) remained closed.
Yakubu explained, “There has been delays in delivering ballot papers and result sheets for the elections, which is not unusual. All the ballot papers and result sheets were ready before the elections despite the very tight legal time-frame for finalising nomination of candidates and dealing with the spate of legal challenges that accompany it. In this regard, the commission has been sued or joined in over 640 court cases arising from the nomination of candidates. “As at today, there are 40 different court orders against the commission on whether to add or drop candidates. The net effect of these is that there is usually roughly a one-month window for the commission to print ballot papers and result sheets and either fly or transport them to several destinations until they finally get to each polling unit

“Unfortunately, in the last one week, flights within the country have been adversely affected by bad weather, For instance, three days ago, we were unable to deliver materials to some locations due to bad weather.

“We therefore had to rely on slow-moving long haulage vehicles to locations that can be serviced by air in spite of the fact that we created five zonal airport hubs Abuja (North Central), Port Harcourt (South-South and South-East), Kano (North-West), Maiduguri and Yola (North-East), and Lagos (South-West) to facilitate the delivery of electoral logistics.
“Apart from these logistical challenges, we also faced what may well be attempts to sabotage our preparations. In a space of two week, we had to deal with serious fire incidents in three of our offices in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State, Qu’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State, and our Anambra State Office at Awka.
“In all three cases, serious disruptions were occasioned by the fire, further diverting our attention from regular preparations to recovery from the impact of the incidents. In Isiala Ngwa South, hundreds of PVCs were burnt, necessitating the recompiling of the affected cards and reprinting in time to ensure that the affected voters are not disenfranchised. I am glad that all the cards were quickly reprinted and made available for collection by their owners.

“In Qu’an Pan Local Government Area, our entire office was razed, destroying all the materials prepared for the elections printed register of voters, ballot boxes, voting cubicles and several electricity generating sets. All Registration Areas and over I00 polling units were affected by the fire. We recovered quickly and have since replaced everything destroyed. In addition, we secured a suitable building from which to conduct the elections.
“Perhaps the most serious was the fire incident in our Anambra State Office at Awka, which destroyed over 4,600 Smart Card Readers being prepared for the elections. These Card Readers take at least six months to procure. Despite this setback, we have practically recovered from this by mopping up every available.”

He added, “I want to appeal to Nigerians and all other stakeholders for their understanding in what has been a very difficult decision for the commission.
“Our decision is entirely taken by the commission. It has nothing to do with security, it has nothing to do with political influence, nothing to with the availability. We believe that ultimately this is for the good of our democracy and country. I wish to assure you of our commitment to free, fair and credible elections.

“As Chairman of INEC, and on behalf of the commission, we take full responsibility for what happened and we regret any inconvenience our decision might have caused. Our decision is not politically motivated and was not taken because security challenges.”
On the rescheduled activities, the commission said configuration of the Smart Card Readers would take place between February 17 and February 21; receipt and deployment of sensitive materials to local government areas would take place between February 20 and February 21; while refresher training for ad hoc staff would be held on February 21.
The commission said deployment of personnel to RACs will be done on February 22 before the elections on February 23.

Buhari: INEC is inefficiency
Buhari, while answering questions from journalists yesterday in Abuja, said he was disappointed by the postponement of the polls, stressing that the action shows the inefficiency of INEC. He said INEC had the time and resources it required to conduct the elections as scheduled. The president lamented that the commission that had consistently claimed that it was ready for the polls could postpone the elections at the last minute.
“Yes I am disappointed because INEC has got all the time and resources needed, and INEC was given all it needed to conduct the polls,” Buhari stated. He added, “Therefore, (it was) supposed to work according to their programme. They were given all the resources. They had all the time and they kept on telling us up to the last minute that they were ready.

“The fact that they are not ready means there is some inefficiency along the line.”
He apologised to Nigerians over what he described as INEC’s inefficiency and appealed to the citizens to patiently wait for the next one week to eventually cast their votes.
“They should be patient, let them come out a week from today and vote. I apologise for this inefficiency because they have to use their own resources to go back to their various polling units at their own expense if they are all that committed,” he stated.

Atiku: It’s hand of Esau, voice of Jacob
Apparently, insinuating political manipulation in the decision of INEC to shift the polls, Atiku called the postponement “a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob”.
The former vice president said in a statement he personally signed that the plan of the presidency and INEC was to provoke the public in the hope that they would react negatively and that would be used as excuse for further anti-democratic acts.
According to Atiku, “The Buhari administration has had more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections and the Nigerian people were poised and ready to perform their civic responsibility by voting in the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, 16 February, 2019.

“This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. By instigating this postponement, the Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turnout is low on the rescheduled date.
“Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March, respectively. Knowing that the Nigerian people are determined to reject them, they are desperate and will do anything in their power to avoid their rejection by the Nigerian people.”
He called for patience on the part of the electorate.

“We can extend our tolerance a few more days and give them our verdict via our votes.
“Maintain the peace and be law abiding. Do not react to this provocation with anger, violence or any action that might be exploited by those who do not want this election to hold. Remain calm. We will overcome this. You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny,” Atiku stated.

Moghalu: it signposts recycling of failure
The presidential candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Kingsley Moghalu, said the postponement marked the recycling of failure by the two leading parties, APC and PDP. In a statement he personally signed, Moghalu said, “It is unfortunate that fellow citizens and myself woke up this morning to learn that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has postponed the presidential election and election into the National Assembly slated for today by one week. Elections for the governorship and the state Houses of Assembly, originally slated for March 2nd, have also been moved by one week.

“The postponements are burdensome and their implications are quite serious. School children would now face further disruptions to the school calendar. Economic activities will suffer further setbacks. And Nigerians who have travelled to various parts of the country to vote or monitor the elections that would have held today now face logistical nightmares.
“These postponements are further signposts of the incompetence of the APC administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and they represent the recycling of the failures of the past PDP governments. The general elections were also postponed in 2015 under the PDP government.”

Donald Duke: Postponement, a National Disgrace
On his part the presidential candidate of SDP told the INEC chairman bluntly that the postponement was national disgrace. “Putting it lightly and as respectfully as I can, the postponement of the elections is a national disgrace. I listened to your interaction with stakeholders and thought it pathetic that you were seeking sympathy and understanding. I likened you to an Olympian who has 4years to prepare and at the Olympics itself, forgets to bring along his kit. You spoke about poor weather (harmattan), bad roads etc. So lame and so plebeian, you failed above all to take responsibility. Not say it, take it. You and I know that no proper nation state in the world will accept what the commission has done. You ought to resign.

“Clearly there’s more here than meets the eye. I have been in government and I’m not naive, this is not your initiative, this is a script given you to play. Basically, its designed to financially wear out the opposition. PDP did same, theirs was a week or so to the elections, yours is 4hrs to the commencement of voting. Literally taking it to the “Next Level.
“Unfortunately, you are not man enough to reject the script and walk away. Remember Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, he retired into ignominy. Your fate may not be different. Regardless of how well the future elections may go, it is now contaminated. I feel so sorry for one I held in such high esteem.”

Saraki tells Nigerians not to be deterred
Saraki advised eligible voters not to be deterred by INEC’s last minute postponement of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly polls. He said this in a statement on Saturday.
The senate president, who is also Director-General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, stated, “Nigerians must continue to be strong and determined to cast their votes for their preferred candidates. Next Saturday, they should try and forget the current setback and troop out en masse to vote for their preferred candidates. Not voting because of the postponement is not a good option for Nigerians. My appeal to our people is that we must still go out next Saturday to exercise our franchise.

“Let me urge our people to continue in their determination to cast their votes. They should remain resolute and come out en mass next Saturday to vote for the PDP. The Atiku-Obi ticket have the momentum on its side. This postponement will not slow us down. We have seven more days to get more voters to come out next Saturday and vote massively for PDP candidates.”

To INEC, Saraki advised, “They should move swiftly to smoothen all the rough edges. The commission must ensure we do not have a repeat of what happened today. We have been saying it that the 2019 elections should be a clear improvement on that of 2015.”
He emphasised the need for a change in the leadership of the country, saying, “Nigerians are wiser. They will definitely punish this government that has displayed incompetence, lack of capacity and foresight and vote for the team that will get Nigeria working again.”

Saraki further said, “Waiting till just a few hours to commencement of voting before announcing postponement of elections is extremely sad. Nobody can quantify the difficulty that this will bring to people at every level. I empathise with youth corps members who have been relocated from their places of primary assignment to assist with the conduct of the elections. My thoughts also go to civil servants who left their bases to go and vote in their hometowns. I also sympathise with millions of ordinary Nigerian traders whose businesses were suspended because of the no movement order. Thus, the costs of this postponement are incalculable.”

Oshiomhole to INEC: you’ve disgraced us
National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, questioned why INEC waited till 2am on Saturday before announcing the postponement of the elections.
“I am shocked, disappointed, I am disgusted. You must go ahead and apologise to Nigerians. You have embarrassed us as a nation,” Oshiomhole said. He said the commission should have announced the postponement at least 48 hours to election.

Buhari shedding crocodile tears over election postponement – Secondus
National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, accused Buhari of engaging in an insincere show of grief over the deferment of the elections. Secondus said in a release by his special assistant on media, Ike Abonyi, that the president’s spirited attempt to extricate himself from the electoral malady merely exposed the hypocrisy of his administration. He said conducting a general election was the most important national assignment of any government in four years and for the President and Commander in Chief, who is privy to every intelligence, to try to feign ignorance of the challenges of INEC, was the height of government insincerity to the people.

Secondus said the events leading to the postponement could not have come to both the president and INEC as a surprise given that the president’s niece, Amina Zakari, was chairperson of the electoral operations and logistics committee of the commission.
The PDP chairman said Buhari’s blame game was in line with his usual way of being unaware of anything happening around him, saying he should simply accept the reality of his woeful failure. He said APC and INEC should stop their hide and seek game and agree with themselves that what God had sealed could never be thwarted by any human scheming.

Postponement regrettable, but remain committed to democracy, Tinubu tells Nigerians
APC National Leader and Co-Chair of the party’s Presidential Campaign Council, Bola Tinubu, said the postponement of yesterday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections was painful, but the electorate should not relent in their commitment to democracy.
“Do not allow this delay to deter you from the expression of your democratic rights. What you had set your mind to do on February 16, keep your mind and heart on for February 23,” Tinubu said, in a statement he personally signed.

The former Lagos State governor said though he appreciated the enormity of the logistical challenges involved in elections in a vast country like Nigeria, “We are still pained that the Commission could not meet this challenge within the time allotted.
“We are also perplexed that INEC literally waited so late in the day to make known the obstacles preventing it from keeping faith to the election schedule. INEC could have and should have given the nation more ample and earlier warning. This could have perhaps lessened the pervasive disappointment that we all now feel. It also would have helped people better order their steps.”

Tinubu said, “We appeal to all who actually came out to vote and to those who intended to vote today, to maintain your commitment. Do not allow this delay to deter you from the expression of your democratic rights. What you had set your mind to do on February 16, keep your mind and heart on for February 23.
“INEC has stated the reason for the delay and has expressed regret over the inconveniences it has caused. We must take INEC’s statement at face value and hold to the belief that INEC understands even more than ever the sober and grave responsibility it has to our nation and our democracy. INEC can only properly discharge that responsibility by conducting free and fair elections. While we cannot go back to repair what did or did not happen to cause this postponement, we all must encourage INEC to do all that is necessary so voting can smoothly proceed on February 23.”

INEC lacks capacity, says APC Campaign Council
The Presidential Campaign Council of APC deplored the last-minute postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections, saying INEC has displayed lack of capacity to deliver. A statement by its Director of Strategic Campaign Communication, Festus Keyamo, said the council was disappointed by the shift of the poll.
The statement titled “We condemn the postponement of the elections, but urge our teeming supporters to be patient and determined,” said, “We have just received with great disappointment and disillusionment the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of its decision to postpone the Presidential/National Assembly and Gubernatorial/House of Assembly Elections to Saturday, February 23, 2019 and Saturday, March 9, 2019, respectively.

“We condemn and deprecate this tardiness of the electoral umpire in the strongest terms possible. President Muhammadu Buhari had since cooperated fully with INEC by ensuring everything it demanded to conduct free and fair elections were promptly made available to it. This news is therefore a huge disappointment to us and to our teeming supporters nationwide and around the world, many of whom have come into the country to exercise their franchise.
“We do not want to be forced to a situation of announcing our total loss of confidence in INEC, because we know where that would leave our democracy.”

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)
Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)

NBA: we’re confounded
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said it was baffled and disappointed by the poll shift by INEC “in the wee hours” of the morning.
“We are confounded by the postponement, considering the serial assurances that INEC had, prior to this morning, given of its preparedness for the conduct of the elections; INEC had also expressly assured that postponement of the elections was not howsoever in contemplation. Our disappointment is compounded by the fact that none of the reasons that INEC has proffered justifies the postponement; all the reasons, with some diligence, could have been remediated,” NBA stated.

It added, “It was particularly unkind for INEC to announce the postponement only hours to the opening of the polls for the national elections today, knowing as we all do that most Nigerians register for elections in their states of origin and had travelled there from their various stations to exercise their civic rights. The cost in man-hours, resources and inconveniences cannot be readily quantified not to mention the risk to personal safety.
“Worse, we run the risk that some who may have to return to their work stations early next week may not be able to travel again for the rescheduled polls next weekend. We read the INEC announcement and listened to its broadcast to hear how INEC intends to mitigate that possibility and nothing was said in that regard.

“INEC needs to be reminded that a free, fair and credible election starts with the preparations therefor by the Electoral Commission. If the Commission is unable to exercise its functions without avoidable glitches, it is difficult to see how it could justifiably impose sanctions on infracting political parties who give excuses for their infractions similar to the ones that INEC has given today for the postponement of the elections. Regulatory authorities such as INEC require discipline and foresightedness to carry out their functions. It is only by imbibing those twin virtues, amongst others, and showing same by conduct that they can justifiably sanction infracting parties over whom they exercise regulatory control.

“NBA hopes that the new dates of 23 February 2019 and 09 March 2019 for the rescheduled elections are sacrosanct and the preparations therefor will be foolproof and glitch-free.”
NBA urged the electorate “not to give up or tire out. We must give INEC the benefit of the doubt and turn out in our numbers to vote for the parties of our choice on the rescheduled dates for the elections.”

CSO Coalition urges Nigerians to remain steadfast
A coalition of civil society groups, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, asked the electorate to be more than determined to exercise their franchise to elect new leaders, despite the rescheduling of the elections. It urged the voters, especially those who are civil servants and traders that travelled home to cast their votes, not to be disillusioned or exhibit apathy towards the elections.
Addressing a press conference on Saturday in Abuja at the Situation Room Election Hub at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, the Convener, Clement Nwankwo, said, “We condemn in the strongest terms the treatment of National Youth Corp members. The heart-breaking pictures of these brave young men and women, sleeping in open fields without any arrangement for their security and safety is disappointing. We call on INEC and indeed all Nigerians to reach out to these youths and provide whatever support necessary to keep them fed and safe.”

ACF condemns postpo-nement
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) condemned the waste of resources and inconveniences occasioned by the postponement of Saturday’s elections. Spokesman of the forum, Muhammad Ibrahim, in a statement on Saturday said although the ACF was not privy to the nature of the challenges INEC faced, it maintained that the postponement should have been announced in good time to avoid the waste of resources and time incurred by stakeholders.
ACF stated, “The ACF learned with regret the INEC’s decision to re-schedule the elections slated for 16th February and 2nd March 2019, citing logistic challenges as the main reasons for the postponement.

“ACF appreciates the concern raised by INEC regarding its logistic preparation and its constitutional power to reschedule the elections for the express purpose of ensuring credible, free and fair elections that would meet universal acceptance.
“However, though ACF is not privy to the nature of the challenges and the time INEC noticed them, the forum thinks the shift should have been done earlier in order to reduce cost and inconveniences for all the parties concerned.”
It said, “The earlier assurances given to Nigerians by INEC that it would deliver on credible, free and fair elections on schedule, heightened the enthusiasm of the people to look forward to the scheduled 2019 general elections.

“The political parties and NGOs embarked on vigorous campaigns and sensitization programs on the need to a free and fair elections. Foreign and domestic election observers mobilised themselves to participate in today’s elections process.
“Unfortunately, five hours to the scheduled elections the same INEC has reversed itself, citing logistic challenges.
“ACF and indeed all Nigerians have no option but to accept the reasons advanced by INEC and to have faith that it will live up to its promise to hold the re-scheduled elections on the 23rd February and 9th March 2019The forum called for calm, restraint and prayers for the peaceful conduct of the elections.
“It is only our collective resolve to respect the tenets of democracy that will strengthen our unity and peaceful coexistence,” the statement added.

CDHR calls for probe
The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) condemned the postponement and demanded a probe to unravel the issues behind the development. A statement by CDHR President Malachy Ugwummadu said the shift “cast serious shadow on the credibility and integrity of the entire election process.”
The group also demanded, “Appropriate sanction to relevant persons who failed in their responsibility and consequently took this decision in order to serve as a deterrent,” saying, “Consideration for decentralisation and unbundling of INEC along the multifaceted responsibilities of that commission have now become imperative.”

 

ECOWAS, AU, EU, UN, others call for calm
The international poll observers expressed concern over the election postponement, but called for calm.
In a joint statement, they said, “We, the Heads of the international election observation missions and the United Nations present in Nigeria, have taken note of the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the 2019 general elections due to logistical and operational challenges. While we note that this decision has caused disappointment for many, we call on all Nigerians to continue to remain calm and supportive of the electoral process as INEC works to implement its new timeline. We urge INEC to use this time to finalise all preparations and ensure that the new election dates are strictly adhered to. We encourage INEC to provide regular updates and information to the public on its preparations in the coming days and weeks to enhance confidence and trust in the process. As we continue to closely observe preparations across the country, we stand in solidarity with the people of Nigeria in their desire for credible and peaceful elections.”
The statement was signed by Economic Community of West African States Election Observation Mission – Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia; African Union Election Observation Mission – His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia; Commonwealth Observer Group – His Excellency Dr Jakaya Kikwete, Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania; and Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa Election Observation Mission – His Excellency Rupiah Banda, Former President of Zambia.

Others are European Union Election Observation Mission – Maria Arena, Belgian Member of the European Parliament; National Democratic Institute/International Republican Institute Election Observation Mission – His Excellency Festus Mogae, Former President of Botswana and Her Excellency Vaira Ve-Freiberga, Former President of Latvia; Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Ambassador Boubakar Adamou, Director of African Political Affairs; and United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

British High Commission: we align ourselves with heads of international observer missions
The British High Commission, Abuja, in a statement last night by British High Commissioner to Nigeria, H.E. Catriona Laing CB, said it supported the position of the international observers on the postponement of the Nigerian elections.
The statement said, “The British High Commission supports the joint statement made by the heads of the international observer missions on the postponement of the 2019 Nigerian elections.

“We recognise the frustrations of many Nigerians, including those involved in the delivery, supervision and observation of the election and those who travelled considerable distances to exercise their democratic right to vote.
“We urge the Nigerian people to be patient, support the democratic process and come out to vote next weekend in the rescheduled elections. We urge all political parties to exercise moderation and to preserve an atmosphere of peace and calm to allow elections to take place in a secure environment.
“The British High Commission remains a staunch supporter of Nigerian democracy and will continue to support the 2019 elections, including through redeploying our observer team to be present next weekend.”