Abuja, Nigeria – Presidential and parliamentary elections in Nigeria have been postponed by a week, five hours before the crunch vote was scheduled to take place.
The elections will now be held on February 23 due to logistical problems, the electoral commission said.
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“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,” Mahmoud Yakubu, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, said following an emergency meeting in capital, Abuja early on Saturday morning.
“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.”
Several states in Africa’s most populous country did not receive ballot materials hours before the delay was announced.
Governorship and local elections, earlier scheduled for March 2, will now be held on March 9.
Many Nigerians, who stayed up late to follow proceedings, were left angry by the decision.
“This is embarrassing. How do we explain this to the world? This is a disgrace. We had four years to plan an election and less than 24 hours away, we are complaining of [a] logistics problem. This is a big joke,” Stephen Akpan, a businessman, told Al Jazeera.
“I am so angry right now. I delayed a business trip to stay back in Abuja and vote and now they want me to reschedule my trip.”
Many others took to social media to express their disappointment.
@inecnigeria that was commanded by President Buhari through AGF Malami to postpone elections and waited till the 11th hour to carry out the order cannot guarantee free, fair and credible elections. Prof Mahmood Yakubu must resign!
— Peter Ayodele Fayose (@GovAyoFayose) February 16, 2019
— Lapai Boy (@ibrahimkuso1982) February 16, 2019
Opposition rejects postponement
Meanwhile, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has objected to the decision to delay the elections.
“With several of their rigging options failing, they have to force INEC to agree to a shift in the election or a staggered election with flimsy excuses pre-manufactured for the purpose,” PDP Chairman Uche Secondus said.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the PDP sees this action as wicked and we are also aware of other dubious designs like the deployment of hooded security operatives who would be ruthless on the people, ostensibly to scare them away,” he added.
In recent weeks, electoral commission offices in some states have been set ablaze and election material taken away.
In 2015, the electoral commission also delayed elections following security threats by the armed group Boko Haram.