INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who made the announcement early this morning at the INEC headquarters, Abuja, said the postponement followed a review of its preparations which indicated that conducting the election today was no longer ‘feasible’.
According to Yakubu, Saturday, February 23, 2019 has been fixed for the presidential and the National Assembly elections while March 9, 2019 has been fixed for the governorship, State House of Assembly and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council elections.
INEC boss, Prof Yakubu, who addressed a press conference at about 2:50am this morning, attributed the shift in the polls to logistics challenges, saying the extra time would allow the electoral umpire ample time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s in order to maintain the quality of the elections and ensure their success.
He said: “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, 23th February 2019. Furthermore, the Governorship, State House of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections is 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 the elections and the consolidation of our democracy.”
He added that the Commission would meet key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2pm today at the Abuja International Conference Centre.
The decision to put off the election was taken early this morning after a long meeting at the INEC headquarters in Abuja attended by the Commission’s chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, national commissioners and other stakeholders within the Commission.
The meeting started at about 8pm yesterday and lasted till early this morning amidst complaints by some Nigerians that election materials were yet to reach their locality just few hours to voting time.
Recall that, in 2015, INEC postponed the election for six weeks. The general elections earlier scheduled for February 14 and 28 were shifted to March 28 and April 11 respectively.
The INEC chairman at the time, Professor Attahiru Jega, said the elections had to be postponed after the nation’s security agencies indicated to the commission that they were not operationally ready to guarantee the security of the electoral processes planned for February 14 and 28.
The INEC chairman said security operatives agencies told INEC that they were commencing a six-week special operation against Boko Haram insurgents in the north eastern corridors of the country and would rather not be distracted by the elections.
Newsmen report that this last-minute postponement will no doubt come as a shock and disappointment to most Nigerian voters and local and international organisations which had already deployed human and material resources across the country in readiness for the polls.
A lot of people had also travelled from one state to another either to escape possible post-election violence or in order to vote in their home constituencies.
INEC had repeatedly told Nigerians that it was ready for the forthcoming general elections which were supposed to commence today across the country with the presidential and National Assembly polls.
INEC national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, had said that the election umpire had done everything necessary to ensure the success of the elections after the security chiefs said they could not guarantee security for the vote.
“We are airlifting election materials for both the presidential and National Assembly elections. Some of the airlifts were from Abuja to Port Harcourt and Kano. And some of the contingents were taking from Kano. For instance, the materials for Jigawa and Kano and other areas were taken from Kano airport. The Central Bank gave them trucks to transport them from Kano airport to the various destinations.
“The materials for the South South were delivered to the Port Harcourt Airport. It is a massive operation. Most of these materials are heavy and it is only cargo airplanes that can airlift them to their various destinations. As at today (Thursday) the Nigerian Air Force was using their C-130 and Hercules aircraft.
“So we are engaged in massive operations for the past three days till this night. Our hope and prayer is that we will complete the airlift of the materials to all the states of the federation by tomorrow (Friday) morning so that the distribution to the local governments can be completed too,” Okoye was quoted as saying.
He noted that the Smart Card Readers (SCR) and the ballot boxes were already at the local governments, including the voting cubicles, adding that they were waiting for the airlift of the ballot papers to their various destinations.
“So we are strongly partnering with the Nigeria Air force as they are the ones with most of the aircraft that can do the shuttles. The chairman is also in constant consultation with the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria where we are depositing the materials. Also on standby is the Nigeria Custom Service as some of the aircraft are landing at our airports and they have to be cleared to land and take off among others,” Okoye had said.
As early as Wednesday, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) had announced the commencement of the airlift of the electoral materials across the country.
The NAF director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, had said in a statement that the airlift includes day and night missions during which both sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials would be conveyed in batches with NAF C-130 Hercules aircraft from Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, to airports across the country.
“The materials are duly delivered by the C-130H aircraft crew to teams of INEC and CBN officials, together with security personnel waiting at the various airports,” Daramola had said.
It was reported about five months ago, specifically, that INEC may postpone the election due to security concerns.
But barely 24 hours after the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, had insisted that the commission had the power to shift dates of elections should there be a threat to its peaceful conduct, the commission, however, said there was no plan to postpone the 2019 general elections.
That was until this morning when he announced the postponement of the polls by one week.
Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has described the postponement of the election as truly disappointing, noting that President Muhammadu Buhari and he were already ready for the polls.
Senior special assistant on media and publicity to the vice president, Laolu Akande, on his twitter handle said: “Mr. President was already in Daura in Katsina State and the VP already in Lagos to vote this morning before the postponement just announced by INEC. This is truly disappointing, but the march to the Next Level continues. Nigeria will prevail.”