The presidential election, earlier scheduled to be held today Saturday February 16, has been postponed by a week, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mahmood Yakubu said hours before polls were due to open.
Addressing journalists in the early hours of Saturday, Yakubu said the delay was needed to hold a free and fair election.
“The commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible. Consequently the commissioners decided to reschedule the presidential and national assembly elections to Saturday 23 February 2019,” he said.
From all indications incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is facing a tight election contest against the main opposition candidate, businessman and former vice president Atiku Abubakar.
The country’s presidential elections in 2011 and 2015 were also delayed over logistics and security issues.
Prior to the announcement there were statements commenting on concerns over the election.
An INEC official told Reuters that “some result sheets and some ballot papers are reportedly missing. We want to track every (piece of) sensitive material, take inventory of what we have and what is missing”.
And a government official said, “The legitimacy of the entire process will be questioned and the winner could lack the moral authority to superintend the affairs of the state.”
One Western diplomat said: “Sensitive materials (ballot papers and results sheets) have been delayed in being distributed.”
Nigeria is also dealing with pockets of instability. Throughout the day, authorities bolstered security in much of the country on the eve of the vote in Africa’s largest democracy where past elections have been marred by violence, voter intimidation and ballot rigging.