ABUJA, Feb. 16 — Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed deep disappointment at the electoral body’s postponement of the presidential election on Saturday.
“I am deeply disappointed that despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections within hours of its commencement,” Buhari said in a statement personally signed by him.
INEC said early Saturday that it was postponing the elections until Feb. 23 as a scheduled proceeding of the vote was not “feasible.”
Many Nigerians had already travelled to various locations to exercise their right to vote, and international observers were gathered, Buhari noted.
He particularly expressed disappointment at the lapses that resulted in the postponement, saying the electoral body themselves had given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they were in complete readiness for the elections.
The 76-year-old president, who is seeking a second term of office through the election, also said the government had ensured non-interference in any way with the work of INEC except to ensure that all funds were released to the Commission and called on the electoral body to ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates.
“While I reaffirm my strong commitment to the independence, neutrality of the electoral umpire and the sanctity of the electoral process and ballot, I urge all political stakeholders and Nigerians to continue to rally round INEC at this trying national moment in our democratic journey,” he added.
At a press conference announcing the postponement of polls, INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu said the electoral body came to the conclusion following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan and the determination to conduct free, fair, and credible elections.
Yakubu added that the INEC made the “difficult decision” after spending more than seven hours in a closed-door meeting on the eve of the scheduled election date.
Nigerians were supposed to cast their votes for presidential and national assembly elections at 120,000 polling units across the country on Saturday.
The west African country postponed presidential elections in 2011 and 2015 over logistics and security issues.