The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has bowed to pressure and postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled to hold this Saturday, February 16 to next Saturday, February 23.
Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman who announced this in the early hours of Saturday (3am) while briefing journalists after an emergency meeting of the Commission in Abuja said the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections, previously scheduled for Saturday, March 2 were rescheduled to Saturday, March 9.
Yakubu said the shift in date for the elections was a difficult decision for the INEC to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of Nigeria’s democracy.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met on Friday, 15’h February 2019 and reviewed its preparations for the 2019 General Elections scheduled for Saturday, 16h February 2019 and Saturday, 2nd March 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, 23rd 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. The Commission will meet key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2pm on Saturday, 16th February 2019 at the Abuja International Conference Centre”, he stated.
The postponement could not be unconnected with the pressure from the All Progressives Congress, APC controlled Federal government that its candidates in Zamfara State rejected by INEC most be allowed to participate in the polls.
Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in a letter on Wednesday asked the Commission to invoke its powers under section 38 of the Electoral Act 2010(as amended) to postpone these elections until candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, are allowed to participate in the polls.
Malami’s letter was written after the Court of Appeal in Sokoto upheld the earlier ruling of Zamfara State High Court which ordered INEC to accept APC candidates in Zamfara State earlier rejected by the Commission for non – compliance with the October 7 deadline for the conduct of party primaries while a Federal High Court, Abuja on the same day ruled that APC did not conduct primaries in Zamfara.
The letter reads, “my office received a petition from the firm of M. A. Mahmud, SAN & CO in respect of the above subject matter, (copy attached for ease of reference) requesting that the subsisting judgment in Suit No. ZMS/GS/52/2018-ZMS/GS SANUSI LANIN DAN-ALHAJI&37 ORS VS APC&44 ORS to be upheld and respected by INEC, as the Court of Appeal has upheld the Appeal tn Appeal No. CA/S/23/2019, (scanned copy attached for ease of reference) thus effectively annulling the grounds upon which the purported cancellation of the APC Primaries In Zamfarag’, State by INEC was based.
“You may wish to recall that the Zamfara State High Court upheld the Zamfara APC Primaries in the suit mentioned in the first paragraph above, held on the 3rd and 7th October, 2018 for the Govemorship and the National and State Legislative Houses. Copy attached for ease of reference.
“You may further wish to recall that in Suit No.FHC/ABJ/CS/1279/2018ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) V. INEC 81 S ORS, the Federal High Court held that the nullification of the said Zamfara APC Primaries by INEC was lawful. However, this decision has been upturned in Appeal No CA/S/23/2019. Copy is also attached for ease of reference.
“In the circumstance and in consideration of the provisions of Sections 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act, 2010, the law allows INEC the latitude and discretion to extend the time within which a political party may duly field a candidate for an election where unforeseen circumstances constrained such a party from doing so within the stipulated time frame.
“Section 38 states: Where at the close of nomination, there is no candidate validly nominated, the Commission SHALL extend time for the nomination and fix a new date for the election.
“Section 39 states: Subject to any other provisions of this Act, if after the latest time for the delivery of nomination papers, and the withdrawal of candidates for an election under this Act, more than one person remains validly nominated, a poll shall be taken.
“In this particular instance, the constraining circumstances that led to the delay in fielding a candidate were caused by INEC’s refusal to comply with the Zamfara High Court judgment suit to uphold the primaries. Moreover, INEC cannot foreclosed the right of a political party to participate in the forthcoming election without recourse to the act.
“Consequent on the above, INEC is invited to comply with the judgment of the Court of Appeal by admitting the results of the APC Zamfara State primaries and to also comply with the provisions of section 38 of the Electoral Act which empowers INEC to postpone the election for the governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections”.
BusinessDay reported on January 9, that the 2019 elections would be postponed, citing a report by Damina Advisors, frontier markets specialists.
“Logistically it is also not clear that the country’s electoral body has adequately distributed all the 84million voter cards, published and vetted a credible election roaster, adequately educated the public and candidates on the electronic materials to be employed at the polls, and made the necessary provisions for internet services and electricity (often in short supply in Nigeria) for collating the votes,” Damina wrote in a note, among other factors it identified for the possible postponement.
Nigeria postponed general elections held in 2011 and 2015, citing various reasons, including security and logistics challenges.