Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections have been postponed by a week because of logistical problems, the electoral commission announced less than six hours before the balloting was due to start.
“Following a careful review of the implementation of the logistics and operational plans and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible,” Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Mahmood Yakubu told reporters early Saturday in Abuja, the capital.
The announcement may heighten tensions in what has been a tight race between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, a 76-year-old former military ruler, and his main challenger, businessman and ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar, 72. Both campaigns have accused each other of trying to rig the vote.
“This was a difficult decision for the commission to take but necessary for the successful delivery of elections and the consolidation of our democracy,” Yakubu said. He said INEC would hold a meeting with the parties at 2 p.m. and refused to answer questions about the commission’s decision.
In 2015, presidential and state governorship elections scheduled for Feb. 14 and 28 were moved to March 28 and April 11.
Buhari went on to win that election to become the first opposition candidate to take power through the ballot box.
Polling centers were initially meant to open Saturday at 8 a.m., with more than 84 million registered voters across 36 states and the federal capital.
Buhari was already in his home town of Daura, in Katsina state, where he was planning to vote, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had travelled to Lagos, Osinbajo’s spokesman Laolu Akande said on Twitter. “This is truly disappointing, but the march to the next level continues,” he said in reference to their campaign slogan.