Election observers, CSOs react to rescheduling

INEC office signpost
INEC office signpost

Following the shocking announcement on the postponement of the 16th of February to February 23, 2019, and Governorship/State Assembly elections from Saturday, 2, March 2019 to March 9, 2019, domestic election observers have expressed disappointment in the development.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), few hours before the start of the election, declared that the election would not hold, blaming logistics and operational reasons for the postponement.

However, the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, in a press briefing on Saturday gave proponent reasons that led to the postponement of the elections.

He said apart from the logistical challenges, there were attempts to sabotage the commission’s preparations, occasioned in part, by flight challenges, due to bad weather.

The YIAGA Africa Watching The Vote (WTV), an accredited observer for the general elections, through a statement jointly signed by the Chair, Watching The Vote (WTV) Working Group, Hussaini Abdu and the Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, said the commission overestimated the challenges associated with the management of election logistics.

”This postponement, without doubt, is an indication that the Commission may have overestimated its own capabilities and/or underrated the challenges associated with the management of election logistics.

The group however urged other local and foreign observers to show empathy on the developments, urging political parties to be patient and refrain from the spread of fake news and hate speech.

”While the anxiety and anger over the postponement are understandable and expected, we understand that the decision is in the interest of the country. We also seize this opportunity to ask all political party actors to show understanding and exercise patience. We urge them to stay away from making allegations, spreading rumours and hate speech to avert overheating the polity.

”We implore our friends and partners from the international community, foreign and fellow domestic observers to show understanding and empathy as Nigeria moves towards the proposed dates for the 2019 elections. The role of the media in maintaining calm, dowsing suspicion and preventing the spread of fake news cannot be overemphasized,” the statement partly reads.

Connected Development (CODE), also an accredited observer for the general elections, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday, describing the postponement as ”unacceptable”.

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The Chief Executive of CODE, Hamzat Lawal, said the commission had all of four years and N186 billion to prepare for any contingency that may impede the electoral process.

He also said the consequence of this last-minute decision is grievous on many levels, urging Nigerian citizens to continue to remain calm and peaceful.

“INEC cannot just cite logistics and operational plans as “identified challenges.” The commission owes the Nigerian people and stakeholders a clear explanation of the issues that led to the postponement of the election,” Mr Lawal said.

Civil Society Organisations

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and The CLEEN Foundation’s Elections Security Support Centre (ESSC), have reacted to the postponement of the presidential election, criticizing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, said they are aware of systemic conflict of interests and questionable procurement process imbibed by the various positions in the Commission creating tendency for mutual sabotage among the three (3) levels of appointees—National Commissioners, RECs and appointed relatives to the Directors in various Departments.

Mr Rafsanjani they are more concerned about the wastages and losses the postponement would have caused the country, civil society and international community, considering the amount of financial and human resources they must have sacrificed to ensure free, fair and credible elections that will be acceptable to all.

National Assembly’s intervention

CISLAC demanded the intervention of the national assembly to urgently investigate the abrupt postponement of the presidential elections.

“We, therefore, call on the National Assembly to, as a matter of urgency, constitute an ad hoc Committee to investigate the sudden postponement to clear the Commission of public doubt that her decision was not informed by desperate desires of unjust individuals or groups who want to assume or sustain power by all illegitimate means,” it said.

The CSOs demanded immediate assurances by the Commission that the new electoral date is certain and the distributed sensitive materials will be kept under appropriate supervision and security till the new date.

They called on INEC to be more transparent and proactive in communicating with Nigerians and her strategic partners on their logistics and operational challenges.

They also demanded adequate security for both materials and human resources (INEC officials and ad-hoc staff, especially members of the National Youth Service Corps) deployed by the Commission so far to the field to avert susceptibility to violations and attacks by unpatriotic individuals or groups across the country.

The CLEEN Foundation also said it is concerned with the safety and integrity of the sensitive election materials already deployed to various states, says it may compromise.

The statement, which was signed by the director of the foundation, Benson Olugbuo, recommends that INEC and security agencies must ensure that the materials are not compromised, and security agents deployed for election duty should be adequately resourced to enable them to deliver on their mandate, despite the consequences of the sudden rescheduling.

“The rescheduling offers INEC a window of opportunity to reclaim its credibility and enhance its capacity to conduct free, fair, peaceful and credible elections. INEC needs to convince stakeholders and the international community that this action is for the effective delivery of its mandate towards deepening democracy in Nigeria” Mr Olugbuo said.

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