Nigeria election commission delays polls for governors by a week

INEC says it needs more time to reconfigure BVAS machines at the centre of last month’s disputed presidential vote.

Officials sort ballots in Nigeria's vote
INEC officials sort and count ballots during the vote-counting process at a polling station in Kano on February 25 [Kola Sulaimon/AFP]

Nigeria’s electoral commission says it has postponed by a week the elections to pick new governors, saying it needed more time to reconfigure electronic machines that are at the centre of a highly contested presidential vote last month.

Originally due on Saturday, the polls to pick governors in 28 of the country’s 36 states will now be held on March 18.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said in a statement late on Wednesday it needed more time to reconfigure its Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) that uses fingerprints and facial recognition to identify voters and transmit results from polling stations.

The same BVAS machines were used during the presidential and parliamentary vote on February 25.

“This decision has not been taken lightly but it is necessary to ensure that there is adequate time to back up the data stored on the over 176,000 BVAS machines from the Presidential and National Assembly elections … and then to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly elections,” INEC said.

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Observers from the European Union, the Commonwealth and other bodies reported a range of problems during the February election, including failures in systems designed to prevent vote manipulation. They criticised INEC for poor planning and voting delays but they did not allege fraud.

The candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, who is a former Lagos governor, was declared the winner in the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.

He won 8.8 million votes, ahead of the contender of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar, at 6.9 million, and third challenger, the Labour Party’s Peter Obi, at 6.1 million.

The PDP and Labour Party say huge delays in voting in the presidential ballot and problems in uploading the election results through the BVAS need to be investigated.

A court earlier on Wednesday had rejected an opposition demand to halt the reconfiguring of BVAS so their teams could check for forensic evidence of ballot rigging.

Source: News Agencies