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Nigeria Electoral Body Apologizes Following Vote Postponement

  • Peter Clottey

Electoral officials wait for ballot material at the distribution center in Ibadan, Nigeria, Saturday, April 2, 2011

Electoral officials wait for ballot material at the distribution center in Ibadan, Nigeria, Saturday, April 2, 2011

An official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the electoral body has apologized to Nigerians following the postponement of the general elections.

This came after the parliamentary election scheduled for Monday was re-scheduled for another week.

Nick Dazan, INEC assistant director of public affairs, says participating political parties agreed with officials of the electoral body for the postponement of the general elections to ensure transparency and a level playing field.

“We held a very lengthy [discussion] with the 63 political parties and, even though we wanted to hold the election Monday, they now complained that they were not ready logistically. As you are aware, they had sent their own agents to be present at all the polling 402,000 units across the country to represent them in the first set of elections,” said Dazan.

“Their position was that they are not going to be financially ready by [Monday] to send back these same polling agents to the polling stations because the banks would have been closed, and they will not have access to money that they will pay to the agents. This is a process that the commission wants to be transparent…if they [party agents] are not there, it is going to affect the integrity of the election,” he added.

Under a new schedule, announced Sunday, Nigeria will cast ballots for the legislature on April 9, then vote for president on April 16, and state governor positions on April 26.

Nigerians were in the process of voting for parliament Saturday when the country's election commission abruptly announced the polls would be delayed until Monday. The commission blamed the delay on problems in the distribution of voting materials.

Dazan says the electoral body regrets the inconvenience that the postponement has caused “patriotic” Nigerians.

“We appreciate that a lot of Nigerians, millions of them of course, who registered in the countryside during the voter registration exercise now have to travel to the countryside again. Unfortunately, when we looked at all these challenges holistically, we saw that the right thing to do was, [even though] we, on our own, wanted the elections for today, that is Monday,” Dazan said.

“But, when the political parties raised these challenges, it became very clear that if we insisted on holding the elections on Monday, the election will not be successful because the parties themselves will not be in a position to take part actively. And, if they don’t, it means that the election will not work,” he added.

In a statement Sunday, election commission chairman Attahiru Jega said political stakeholders wanted a further delay.

The postponement has sparked anger and disappointment across Nigeria and the election commission has come under sharp criticism.

Before Saturday, Jega had given no hint of any problems, instead saying the April elections would give Nigeria the chance to "get it right" after 2007 polls marred by violence, fraud and disorganization.