Logistical problems force Nigeria election delay
16 February 2019 | Africa
Nigeria's electoral watchdog today postponed presidential and parliamentary elections for one week, just hours before polls were due to open.
The two main political parties swiftly condemned the move and accused each other of orchestrating the delay as a way of manipulating the vote.
Voting had been due to start at nearly 120 000 polling stations in Africa's most populous nation at 07:00 GMT, with a record 73 candidates on the ballot.
President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, was set to seek a second term of office against a stiff challenge from the main opposition candidate, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 72.
But rumours began circulating late on Friday about a possible postponement after widespread reports of problems with the delivery of election materials, including ballot papers.
Members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met in emergency session in Abuja and after examining the logistics plans concluded the timetable was "no longer feasible", commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu said.
"Consequently, the commission has decided to reschedule to Saturday February 23, 2019," he told reporters.
Parliamentary elections for 360 seats in the lower House of Representatives and 109 seats in the Senate will be held on the same day.
Governorship and state assembly elections will be pushed back to March 9, Yakubu said.
"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 added.
Buhari's campaign spokesman Festus Keyamo, for the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) said the news was a "huge disappointment" and hit out at INEC for being unprepared.
Keyamo called on the body to remain impartial "as the rumour mill is agog with the suggestion that this postponement has been orchestrated in collusion with the... PDP".For his part, Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party blamed the Buhari government for "instigating the postponement" but called on his supporters to remain calm.
"We will overcome this. You can postpone an election but you cannot postpone destiny," he added in a statement.
Nigeria has postponed voting before: in 2015, INEC announced a six-week delay just one week before the election, citing security concerns linked to the Boko Haram insurgency.
The six-week delay was seen as a way for president Goodluck Jonathan to claw back votes after a strong challenge from Buhari, then an opposition candidate.
The same argument may be made again, with little to separate Buhari and Abubakar.