Election Postponement: CDD raises concern about already distributed materials

FILE PHOTO: Sensitive and insensitive materials for elections 01431/16/2/2019/Jones Bamidele/NAN
FILE PHOTO: Sensitive and insensitive materials for elections 01431/16/2/2019/Jones Bamidele/NAN

A civil society group has described the postponement of Saturday’s presidential elections as “cryptic and late, raising concern over sensitive materials already deployed in many parts of the country.”

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the electoral commission, INEC, in Enugu admitted that it had deployed sesnsitive materials for the election but would successfully recall all of them.

The electoral commission, INEC, announced the decision to postpone the elections hours before the opening of the polls, after repeatedly assuring Nigerians and the international community that it was ready for the crucial elections.

The presidential and National Assembly elections were postponed from February 16 to 23 while state elections were postponed from March 2 to 9.

The postponement has been criticised by most Nigerians and political parties.

On Saturday afternoon, the chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, gave reasons for the postponement, mainly logistics challenges of delivering sensitive materials across Nigeria.

Mr Yakubu on Saturday had said INEC regretted the inconvenience the postponement would cause to Nigerians.

The CDD, however, said the lack of an apology by INEC was “insensitive to the sacrifices that Nigerians and the friends of Nigeria had made for today’s elections, including ad-hoc staff like National Youth Service Corps members, the organised private sector, entrepreneurs, schools, political parties, local and international election observers, and all Nigerian citizens. It also failed to recognise the huge amount of public funds that would go to waste as a result of this postponement.”

Despite the knowledge of the postponement, many residents remained indoors till noon while Nigerians who travelled for the elections are still counting losses accrued due to the sudden shift.

“The nature of the cancellation statement by INEC leaves much to be desired. It was cryptic and late, having been issued less than 6 hours to the commencement of voting across the country, and did not include an apology”, the CDD through its Election Analysis Centre (EAC) said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES Saturday evening.

In the statement signed by Idayat Hassan, CDD director, the organisation said it received with shock and disappointment the announcement by INEC.

“Our surprise stems from repeated reassurances from INEC that it was fully ready to conduct the elections and that there was no possibility of postponement.”

The CDD made several observations, saying INEC had formed the habit of “bullishly” announcing its readiness but will not live up to that expectation.

“Just yesterday, the EAC issued a bulletin on Electoral Governance where it pointed out that although INEC had, in successive elections, bullishly announced its readiness to conduct free, fair and credible elections.

“But each election has been characterised by weak project management (leading to lateness in the procurement of necessary election material), weak logistics management (leading to the late arrival or, in some cases, non-arrival of sensitive election materials), poor contingency planning, inadequate voter education, and reactive (rather than proactive) public communication.

“We recognise that elections represent a huge logistical challenge, particularly as the 2019 elections is the largest in Nigeria’s history and the largest in Africa. However, we were hopeful that lessons from the 2011 and 2015 elections would have been learnt by 2019.”

CDD urged the commission to take urgent steps to reassure Nigerians and the international community that “it will indeed be ready to conduct free, fair and credible elections on the new dates of 23rd February 2019 for the Presidential and National Assembly Elections and 9th March 2019 for the Gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections.

“We are particularly concerned that certain sensitive materials had already been deployed in various parts of the country and there is an urgent need to assure the public of the security of those materials ahead of the new dates.

“We hope that INEC will take advantage of the extra time provided by the postponement of the elections to rapidly and robustly address any weaknesses in project management, logistics management and public communication. There is an urgent need to re-energise Nigerians to turn out to vote so as to avoid voter apathy, and we call on civil society and the media to assist in this process.”

The group urged Nigerians not to be deterred by the postponement and to turn out enmasse to vote on the new election dates.

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