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INEC Postpones Governorship, State Assembly Elections to March 18



The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has postponed the governorship and state houses of assembly elections by one week.

The elections earlier scheduled for Saturday 11 March will now hold on Saturday 18 March, the commission said in a statement by its spokesperson, Festus Okoye, on Wednesday night.

The first round of the elections – the presidential and national assembly elections – held as scheduled on 25th February.

The statement said the postponement was to make for adequate timing to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) ahead of the governorship and state assembly polls.

The Presidential Election Tribunal had restrained the commission from tampering with all sensitive materials –including the BVAS – used in the conduct of the presidential election following the request by the the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP), Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, respectively, who rejected the outcome of the presidential election.

The opposition candidates, who came second and third respectively, rejected the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Bola Tinubu, as winner of the election and called for the conduct of another round of elections or be declared the winner.

In preparation of a suit to challenge the outcome, they approached the court seeking permission to inspect all sensitive materials and restrain INEC from tampering with them.

While INEC approached the court on Monday to seek permission to reconfigure the BVAS, the request was only granted on Wednesday, two days to the initial date of the governorship election.

“While the ruling of the Tribunal makes it possible for the Commission to commence the preparation of the BVAS for the Governorship and State Assembly elections, it has come far too late for the reconfiguration to be concluded,” Mr Okoye said in Wednesday’s statement.

“Consequently, the Commission has taken the difficult but necessary decision to reschedule the Governorship and State Assembly elections which will now take place on Saturday 18th March 2023. By this decision, campaigns will continue until midnight of Thursday 16th March 2023 i.e. 24 hours before the new date for the election.”

INEC said the decision was taken to ensure that there is adequate time to back up the data stored on the over 176,000 BVAS machines from the Presidential and National Assembly elections “and then to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly elections.”

The commission, however, stated that it is not against any litigants inspecting the election materials, promising to grant them all the access they require to pursue their cases in court.

“However, we wish to reiterate that the Commission is not against litigants inspecting election materials. Consequently, it will continue to grant all litigants access to the materials they require to pursue their cases in court.

“We wish to reassure all political parties and candidates that the data from the Presidential and National Assembly elections will be backed up and available in INEC cloud facilities, including the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV). Political parties can apply for Certified True Copies of the backend data of the BVAS. Also, the results on the BVAS will continue to be available on the IReV for interested parties to access.”

But for the latest postponement, the 2023 general election would have gone down in history as the first election held as scheduled since 2015.

In 2015, INEC postponed the elections by six weeks when the security agencies stated that they were embarking on a six-week special operation against Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east and would not be available for the elections.

In 2019, the election was postponed hours to the commencement of the election, due to logistics and operational problems.



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