|The first round of voting was aborted on Saturday due to logistical glitches [Reuters]|
Nigeria’s electoral commission (INEC) has postponed nationwide parliamentary polls for a second time, a day after they were put off due to logistical problems.
Officials said on Sunday the elections that had been postponed to Monday after voting materials failed to arrive on time will now take place on April 9 in Africa’s most populous nation.
Attahiru Jega, the head of the electoral commission, told reporters: “The commission weighed all the options and considered the wide-ranging counsel of Nigerians and decided to reschedule all the elections as follows: Saturday, April 9, senate and house of representatives elections; Saturday, April 16, presidential elections; Tuesday, April 26, state houses of assembly and governorship elections.”
The electoral body’s resident commissioner in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt said the postponement was partly prompted by complaints from political parties that the time frame was too tight.
“Some parties have said they won’t take part … Without political parties there is no election so INEC has to listen to their comments,” the commissioner, Aniedi Ikoiwak, said.
Jega was given a $570m budget last August just for overhauling voter lists and buying additional ballot boxes, leading some Nigerians to question whether they were getting value for money.
There are 73 million registered voters out of a population of 158 million and the budget means each of Nigeria’s 36 states would receive at least $15m.
Voting materials delayed
Nigerians had flocked to polling stations on Saturday to cast their ballots for the 360-member House of Representatives and the 109-member Senate, but the exercise did not go far after it emerged that voting materials at many polling centres had not been delivered.
The opposition accused the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of sabotage, with the spokesman of the main challenger of Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent president, saying the party was “afraid to let people come out and vote”.
Jonathan, who became president after the death of Umaru Yaradua last May, is widely expected to win the presidential poll and has repeatedly promised free and fair elections.
Muhammadu Buhari, his main challenger and former president running on the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) platform, has major support in the country’s mostly Muslim north.
Other candidates vying for the presidency include former anti-corruption chief Nuhu Ribadu, whose Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) party has a strong following in parts of the southwest, and Ibrahim Shekarau, governor of the northern state of Kano.
The PDP controls a comfortable majority in the parliament, but some analysts say the poll could significantly loosen its grip on the legislature.
The party has won every election since military rule ended in 1999. The previous two elections, held in 2003 and 2007, were marred by fraud and irregularities.