The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has given reasons for retracting its earlier stance to proceed with the Edo State governorship election initially scheduled for Saturday.
Hours after the commission said it would go ahead with the election despite the contrary advice of the Police and the State Security Service, SSS, it retracted saying it had postponed the election by two weeks.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, the Police and the SSS called on INEC to postpone the election and allow them address threats emanating from insurgents bent on attacking electorates and disrupting the election.
The electoral body initially refused to be “teleguided”. It said suspending the polls would be costly after reaching at least 97 per cent readiness level.
After a series of consultations, the Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC finally gave in to the demands of security agencies. It postponed the election to September 28.
In a telephone conversation with PREMIUM TIMES Thursday night, the spokesperson of INEC, Nick Dazang, said the latest decision was based on a better appraisal of the situation by INEC, following explanations from the security agencies.
“It was only as at this evening that we were officially communicated and they explained to us the challenges they had that would affect their capacity to secure the election,” he said.
“Before then, we were hearing just like any other person from the media that they were advising us to postpone. And as a responsible organisation, we did not think there was any way we could proceed on that basis.”
The spokesperson added that the commission’s previous decision to go ahead because it had earlier received reports from the same security operatives during a stake holders forum that there would be sufficient protection of lives and properties during the election.
“Don’t forget that the story started trending that we were advised to postpone the election as we were conducting the stake holders forum in Benin.
“The Police and the SSS were represented there, at the highest level. The DIG operations represented the IG and he was telling the stake holders, at the full glare of reporters, that they would secure the environment for the election.
“That was the reason for the initial stand. Those that gave the assurance were far higher than those who issued the statement. So if the IG is saying one thing and a much lower person is saying another, who should we follow?” he queried.
Mr. Dazang then provided more details of the security agencies claims.
“They explained that going ahead with the election would over stretch them and that giving the situation, it was crucial for them to ensure the protection of voters, as well as our staff.
“You know we are not in a position to secure our staff. And we do not want to put them in harm’s way,” he added.
While the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its officials condemned the postponement, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, did not.
Godwin Obaseki, the APC candidate, is slugging it out with Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the PDP in the race to replace incumbent Adams Oshiomhole whose two-term tenure expires this November.