INEC: Why we shifted presidential, NASS polls by 1 week


Six months after the 2019 polls, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has explained the reasons for the postponement of presidential and National Assembly (NASS) elections by one week describing it as “a painful but necessary experience.”

Prof Yakubu who said the commission printed over a billion ballot papers for the 84 million voters blamed it on logistics, saying that although the materials were produced on time, the commission could not deliver them to exchanging posts, in some cases, the Central Banks and subsequently the states. 

Yakubu who was fielding questions from the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) on Tuesday said the  commission needed more time to carry out the huge responsibilities of printing the ballot papers (some of which were  printed abroad) and delivering the election materials throughout the country.

He said, “I think on Saturday the 16th of February, I addressed a press conference. It was a very painful decision that was necessary. We were not able to tell the nation and the whole world how much time we needed to overcome these challenges and conduct the elections in the same week. 

“But essentially, the issue was logistics and is related to a number of challenges. Yes we produced the materials, we couldn’t deliver the materials to exchanging posts in some cases, the Central Banks and subsequently the states. So we needed a little bit of time to do this.” 

Yakubu further explained that the commission couldn’t finalise on preparations of the Regulations and Guidelines for the elections because the commission had waited for a National Assembly decision on the electoral framework.

He said this delayed the production of the training manual usually produced from the Regulations and Guidelines and used for the training of the almost 1million staff to man the elections.

“You can’t expect any nation’s Constitution to say everything; and therefore the Constitution empowers the National Assembly to make subsidiary laws, it’s called the Electoral Act; you can’t expect the Electoral Act to say everything and therefore the National Assembly through the Electoral Act empowers the Commission to make Regulations and Guidelines.

“We couldn’t finalise on regulations and guidelines because we were waiting for a decision on the electoral framework and because we couldn’t finalise on the regulations and guidelines, we couldn’t also produce the training manuals because it is from the regulations and guidelines we produce the training manuals that we now use to train the almost 1 million staff that we engaged for the elections. So it affected the way we did business.”  

The Chairman also said the commission wanted to continue with the elections after a few days before its ICT department drew its attention that the reconfiguration of the Smart Card Readers (SCR) would take another 2 weeks to achieve.

He stated that after arguments, the ICT department yielded to re-configure the SCRs in five days resulting in the shift of the presidential and NASS polls for one week.

He explained that the SCRs were configured to operate only on the day of the elections and since the elections did not hold on the 16th February, it became necessary to reconfigure them for a new date.

“In the commission, we felt actually a re-schedule of the election by a few days would have been sufficient but the ICT personnel drew our attention to the fact that they had to reconfigure the smart card readers and they going to take about, initially they said 2 weeks, eventually we argued for 5 days. The smart card readers are configured to operate on the day of the election, they can’t operate outside and they had already configured for the 16the February and we had to reconfigure them.”

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