The 2019 Nigerian presidential election has been delayed at the last minute, with polls being moved back one week until February 23.
As the BBC reported, the dramatic move came just hours before polls were set to open on Saturday as the Independent National Electoral Commission cited logistical issues in making the move.
“Proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible,” commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu said, citing the need to be able to conduct a free and fair vote for all Nigerians.
Local officials had said that voting materials were not delivered to all parts of the country, VOA News reported. One election official told Reuters that some sheets and paper ballots were missing. There were fears that the irregularities could lead to unrest, and would likely trigger a challenge to the election.
The presidential and parliamentary election will be rescheduled for the following Saturday, February 23. Elections for governor, state assembly, and federal area council races will not be held until Saturday, March 9.
The decision to move the Nigerian election date was condemned by the country’s two main political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), with the BBC noting that both parties accused the other of attempting to manipulate the results of the election.
Before the decision to move the election, other world leaders had weighed in on the alleged irregularities in the election, VOA News reported. Mike Pompeo, the United States’ Secretary of State, had spoken with President Muhammadu Buhari and his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, by phone on Friday, and “underscored U.S. support for the Nigerian goal of free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections.”
President Muhammadu Buhari also urged Nigerians to remain peaceful and refrain from civil disorder, but there have been widespread reports of demonstrations and violence. Vanguard reported that violence in the state of Kaduna left dozens of people dead.
“The Kaduna state government, Friday evening, disclosed that 66 persons were killed by unknown gunmen in Kajuru local government of Kaduna state, less than twenty four hours to the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary elections,” the report noted.
There were still few details about the alleged attack, but the report noted that the dead included 22 children and 12 women.
Many Nigerians expressed disappointment with the election update, with some casting doubt on the Independent National Electoral Commission for the decision and worrying that the new election date could still come with violence and unrest across the country.