INEC GIVES REASON FOR POSTPONEMENT
-Ridwan Ojewale, ABH PRESS
The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has given details of the “logistics and operational problems” he earlier said prompted the rescheduling of the 2019 general elections billed to start Saturday.
The commission announced the shocking decision just hours before the opening of polls after repeatedly assuring Nigerians and international observers it was ready for the crucial elections. It blamed logistics problems but did not give details at first.
Many Nigerians have condemned the postponement, especially its timing, and have accused the commission of insensitivity, noting that INEC had not apologized for the inconvenience its decision had caused millions of people.
At a news conference Saturday afternoon, Mr Yakubu said the commission had been involved in large scale operations in preparations for the polls that “it is therefore not unexpected that such a tremendous national mobilisation of men and materials would encounter operational challenges.”
He listed the key challenges to be delays in delivering ballot papers and result sheets, occasioned in part by flight challenges due to bad weather. He said apart from the logistical challenges, there were attempts to sabotage the commission’s preparations, listing fire outbreaks at INEC facilities that destroyed smart card readers and voter cars. The fire at Anambra was the most serious of all, he said. He said if the polls had gone ahead, it would have meant some states starting well ahead of others with the implication of the elections being staggered.
In his remark, Yakubu said the postponement was entirely that of the commission and not under any influence or security issues. He noted that the commission earlier considered Sunday or Monday but had a rethink after receiving input from the ICT department that it will take five days to reconfigure card readers.
He therefore assured the nation and stakeholders that the commission is determined to keep to its promise to conduct a free, fair and transparent election that beats the 2015 general elections, which has become a benchmark for the commission.
He however said the commission has been able to mop up card readers from other areas, while new Permanent Voters Cards have also been printed as replacement for those who lost their PVCs to the fire incident.
Yakubu’s decision was endorsed by all political parties present.
The chairman also noted that Nigerians do not appreciate the efforts of the commission. He said between 2015 November when he took over INEC and now, the commission had been able to undertake 195 off-season elections which were successful. Yakubu said ahead of the postponed elections, the electoral umpire was able to register 14 million new voters, print 421.7 million of ballot papers and 14.28 million Permanent Voter Cards in record time as well as mobilise over one million ad hoc workers which would undertake the elections.
Yakubu said, “It is often not appreciated the magnitude of activities that the Commission undertakes during general elections. Not only have we recruited and trained about one million young people to serve as ad hoc staff, but the magnitude of materials mobilised for our elections is also enormous.
For instance, the commission has printed 421.7 million ballot papers for six scheduled elections, as well as 13.6 million leaves of result forms for the Presidential election alone.
“Indeed, managing 91 political parties and 23,316 candidates for whom votes will be cast in 119,973 polling units by over 84 million voters is certainly astounding. 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 had been delays in delivering ballot papers and result sheets for the elections which are not unusual.
“However, one 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. In this regard, the commission has been sued or joined in over 640 court cases.”
Meanwhile, in a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari has apologized to Nigerians for the postponement of the 2019 general elections by one week.
He said he felt bittered that many Nigerians must have spent their resources in moving from one location to the other towards voting in the postponement elections. Buhari, who returned to Abuja at 1:15 pm from Katsina State, spoke with journalists at the Presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Asked why he was disappointed over the postponement of elections, he said “Yes I am disappointed because INEC has got all the time and resources needed and therefore supposed to work according to their programme.
“They were given all the resources, they had all the time and they kept on telling us up to the last minute that they were ready.
“The fact that they are not ready means there is some inefficiency along the line.” he said
On his message to Nigerians and his supporters, he said “They should be patient, let them come out a week from today and vote.
“I apologise for this inefficiency because they have to use their own resources to go back to their various polling units at their own expense if they are all that committed.” he said