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Nigerian Electoral Commission, Political Parties Agree to Push Back Election Date

Nigeria’s political parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have agreed to shift the general elections to April 2011. They met Tuesday (9/21/10) night in Abuja and agreed it’s no longer feasible to hold the election in January, as scheduled.

Earlier, INEC officials asked for more time to ensure a credible, free and fair election. The parties agreed to the new date as long as the swearing-in date for the new president, May 29th, still stands.

INEC has taken a courageous step toward making the elections credible, says Emma Ezeazu, general secretary of the Alliance for Credible Elections, a pro-democracy group based in the capital, Abuja.

“It tells me that we have a different INEC; it tells me that we have an INEC that is ready to step forward and do the right thing. If it was the previous INEC they would say no, no, no; we can’t manage because they know the moment will give them the opportunity to rig election the way they like. So we have an INEC that is strong in intellectual perspective and social courage, so I think it is a good development.”

Ezeazu dismissed fears that the new date would be difficult to meet because of the constitutional requirement needed to make it the law of the land.

“It is not a tall order; it’s a very simple thing and can be done within one week. What is a tall order about state assemblies taking a motion, knowing the problems themselves, political groups knowing the problems themselves? They can pass it within one second; it’s a very simple thing to do.”

Politicians who may want to delay the process, says Ezeazu, will pay a huge price at the polls.

“They have no option. INEC has made it clear that they need time to do a good job. If [the politicians] don’t rise above that, we are heading to the polls and they will pay a price. The danger it poses if they don’t rise to that occasion for the country and the constitutionality of the process is very high. I don’t think they would want to risk that process.”