Bad weather, sabotage responsible for election postponement, says Yakubu

Members of European Union Electoral Observer Team in Abuja Yesterday. PHOTO PHILIP OJISUA

• Decision Has Nothing To Do With Security, Political Influence–INEC
• NBA Confounded, Disappointed With Shift
• Buhari’s Desperation To Win At All Cost Forced Shift- CUPP
• APC Condemn Postponement, Charges Supporters To Be Calm
• PDP Rejects Action
• Tinubu: Postponement Painful

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday identified bad weather, sabotage, and a host of other challenges as factors that necessitated the postponement of yesterday’s polls.

Yakubu, who disclosed this while addressing party leaders, international observers and other stakeholders in Abuja, said the action had nothing to do with the security situation, political influence or non-availability of resources. “For instance, three days ago, we were unable to deliver materials to some locations due to bad weather. We therefore had to rely on slow-moving long haulage vehicles to locations that can be serviced by air in spite of the fact that we created five zonal airport hubs Abuja (North Central), Port Harcourt (South South and South East). Kano (North West), Maiduguri and Yola (North East) and Lagos (South West) to facilitate the delivery of electoral logistics.

“I want to appeal to Nigerians and all other stakeholders for their understanding in what has been a very difficult decision for the commission.

“No doubt, preparations for the 2019 general elections have been extremely tasking for the commission. It is therefore not unexpected that such a tremendous national mobilisation of men and materials will encounter operational challenges and we have had our own fair share of such challenges.

“There has been a delay in delivering ballot papers and result sheets for the elections, which is not unusual. However, I must emphasise that all the ballot papers and result sheets were ready before the elections despite the very tight legal timeframe for finalising nomination of candidates and dealing with the spate of legal challenges that accompany it.”

On the destruction of INEC offices in some states, the chairman said the development made the commission to reprint and recompile all the affected cards in those states, adding that if they did not postpone the elections most of the states would not start by 8am, which is the stipulated time.

According to him, apart from the logistical challenges, the commission also faced what may well be attempts to sabotage its preparations. “In a space of two weeks, we had to deal with serious fire incidents in three of our offices in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State, Qua’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State and our Anambra State office at Awka.”

NBA Confounded, Disappointed With Shift
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) is confounded and disappointed with the postponement considering the assurances that INEC gave of its preparedness for the conduct of the elections.

The body in a statement signed by its president, Paul Usoro said: “Our disappointment is compounded by the fact that none of the reasons that INEC has proffered justifies the postponement. All the reasons, with some diligence, could have been remediated.

“It was particularly unkind for INEC to announce the postponement only hours to the opening of the polls, knowing as we all do that most Nigerians registers for elections in their states of origin and had traveled there from their various stations to exercise their civic rights. The cost in manhours, resources and inconveniences cannot be readily quantified not to mention the risk to personal safety. Worse, we run the risk that some who may have to return to their work stations early next week may not be able to travel again for the rescheduled polls next weekend.”

It added: “INEC needs to be reminded that a free, fair and credible election starts with the preparations by the electoral commission. If the commission is unable to exercise its functions without avoidable glitches, it is difficult to see how it could justifiably impose sanctions on infracting political parties who give excuses for their infractions similar to the ones that INEC has given today for the postponement of the elections.”

It hopes that the new dates for the rescheduled elections are sacrosanct and the preparations therefore will be foolproof and glitch-free. “Our democracy can only prosper and be strengthened if our electoral umpire does not give room for disputation of election results through sloppy arrangements and inadequate preparations …We must give INEC the benefit of the doubt and turn out in our numbers to vote for the parties of our choice on the rescheduled dates for the elections.

EU, UN, ECOWAS Urge Nigerians To Be Calm
Heads of the international election observation missions and the United Nations have called on Nigerians to remain calm in the wake of election postponement.

In a joint statement issued yesterday by the group, members stated that although the decision caused disappointment for many, they however urged all Nigerians to continue to remain calm and supportive of the electoral process as INEC implements its new timeline.

They have therefore pledged to continue with their mission of closely observing preparations towards the conduct of the elections across the country.

The statement read in part: “We have taken note of the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the 2019 general elections due to logistical and operational challenges.

“While we note that this decision has caused disappointment for many, we call on all Nigerians to continue to remain calm and supportive of the electoral process as INEC works to implement its new timeline.

“We urge INEC to use this time to finalise all preparations and ensure that the new election dates are strictly adhered to.

“We encourage INEC to provide regular updates and information to the public on its preparations in the coming days and weeks to enhance confidence and trust in the process. “As we continue to closely observe preparations across the country, we stand in solidarity with the people of Nigeria in their desire for credible and peaceful elections.”

The group comprised Economic Community of West African States Election Observation Mission headed by Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; African Union Election Observation Mission headed by Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn; Commonwealth Observer Group represented by Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr Jakaya Kikwete and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa Election Observation Mission led by Former President of Zambia, Rupiah Banda, as well as as well as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas; among others.

Buhari’s Desperation Responsible For Rescheduling-CUPP
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) alleged that the last minute postponement was as a result of President Muhammadu Buhari’s desperation to win the presidential poll at all cost.

Spokesperson of the group, Ikenga Ugochinyere, in a statement alleged that the President and security agencies deliberately sabotaged the electoral umpire in their bid to rig election using staggered polls.

But unlike the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, who called for the resignation of the INEC boss, Yakubu, the CUPP spokesperson commended the INEC boss for showing courage by shifting the exercise.

“We make bold to say that with the postponement, President Buhari’s judgement day with the people has just been shifted.

“INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has shown courage by shifting the election to avert national bloodshed because we are aware that APC wanted to proceed with election after compromising distribution and destroying materials in over 15 states.”

Fate Of Students Unknown
With the postponement of the presidential and the National Assembly elections, fate of the students who were billed to resume academic activities in some parts of the country on Tuesday hangs in the balance.

Following the release of election timetable, schools had to adjust their academic calendar in order to ensure a hitch-free session.

As the polls approached, government declared a mid-term break for students between Thursday February 14 and Monday, February 18.
But with the postponement, it is not clear whether the students would resume as earlier stated and return home few days to the rescheduled presidential polls.

According to the Director, Public Affairs Unit of the Lagos State Ministry of Education, Adesegun Ogundeji, the development will be looked into on Monday when work resumes.

In the same vein, the spokesperson, Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Gong said deliberations on the fate of the students would commence on Monday when work resumes.

“Maybe the minister will issue a statement concerning the matter on Monday when work resumes. I am not in a position to say anything now but it will be best for the students to be with their parents during the election.”

Buhari Regrets INEC’s Action, Calls For Security Of Sensitive Materials
Buhari in a statement signed by him in Daura, his country home, regretted the postponement, expressing deep disappointment at the action “despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally.”

The President tasked the election umpire to ensure the safety of all materials already designated for the election saying, “We now urge INEC to ensure not only that materials already distributed are safe and do not get into wrong hands, but that everything is done to avoid the lapses that resulted in this unfortunate postponement, and ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates.”

He said: “Many Nigerians have traveled to various locations to exercise their right to vote, and international observers are gathered… INEC themselves have given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections. We and all our citizens believed them.”

APC Condemns Postponement, Charges Supporters To Be Calm
The All Progressive Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council equally expressed disappointment over INEC action saying it was a “huge disappointment.”

Its Director of Strategic Communications, Mr. Festus Keyamo said: “This news is therefore a huge disappointment to us and to our teeming supporters nationwide and around the world, many of whom have come into the country to exercise their franchise.”

Atiku Urges Supporters to Remain Calm
Presidential Candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, in his said the Buhari administration had more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections and the Nigerian people were poised and ready to perform their civic responsibility by voting in the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, 16 February, 2019.

“This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. By instigating this postponement, the Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date. Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively,” he said.

Shift Buhari’s Agenda To Cling On To Power
For Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), INEC’s action is a deliberate pre-determined agenda of President Buhari to cling on to power even when it’s obvious to him that Nigerians want him out.

National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus said that the postponement, which he alleged is part of a grand design by the APC to thwart the will of Nigerians at all cost, clearly exposes INEC as a failure and calls on its chairman, Prof Yakubu to resign immediately.

The PDP leader warns that the party will not accept anything short of a well-organised electoral process devoid of manipulation, harassment and intimidation of voters and the opposition, particularly members of the PDP.

Poll Postponement Painful, Says Asiwaju Tinubu
All Progressives Congress National Leader and Co-Chair of the party’s Presidential Campaign Council, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has said though the postponement of yesterday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections was painful, all those who actually came out to vote and those who intended to vote in the postponed elections must maintain their commitment.

“Do not allow this delay to deter you from the expression of your democratic rights. What you had set your mind to do on February 16, keep your mind and heart on for February 23,” he said.

In a statement he personally signed, Asiwaju Tinubu was reacting to the postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly polls by one week by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The former Lagos governor said though he appreciated the enormity of the logistical challenge that elections in a vast nation like ours poses to INEC, “we are still pained that the Commission could not meet this challenge within the time allotted.

“We are also perplexed that INEC literally waited so late in the day to make known the obstacles preventing it from keeping faith to the election schedule. INEC could have and should have given the nation more ample and earlier warning. This could have perhaps lessened the pervasive disappointment that we all now feel. It also would have helped people better order their steps”.

The full statement reads:
“As the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress and simply as a Nigerian, I must express my profound concern and dissatisfaction with the unexpected, late hour postponement of the presidential and national assembly elections by INEC. According to INEC, the one-week postponement of the election from February 16 to February 23 was compelled by logistical difficulties encountered by the commission in transporting essential election material to polling in various parts of the country.

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