Nigeria’s electoral commission postponed its gubernatorial elections on Wednesday, saying it needed more time to reconfigure the electronic machines used in last month’s disputed presidential vote.
The elections will now be held on March 18 instead of Saturday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said in a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday.
The delay will allow time for the data in the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used in the February 25 election to be backed up and reconfigured 24 hours before the new election date.
“The decision has not been taken lightly but it is necessary to ensure that there is adequate time to back up the data stored on the over 178,000 BVAS machines from the Presidential and National Assembly Elections held on the 25th February 2023 and then to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly Elections,” the INEC said.
The INEC’s statement came after a Nigerian judge dismissed a request by an opposition candidate to stop the electoral commission from reconfiguring the devices.
Labour Party candidate Peter Obi, who lost the latest presidential race to Bola Tinubu, claimed that evidence of foul play during the election would be erased in the event of a reconfiguration.
The INEC said the ruling came too late for the data to be backed up and for the devices to be configured in time for Saturday’s vote.
The People’s Democratic Party candidate Atiku Abubaker called the election result “a rape of democracy” and vowed to challenge it in court, alongside Obi.
In response to the ruling, Labour Party spokesperson, Julius Abure said that it raised serious doubts over the “truthfulness, patriotism and integrity of INEC” who he says blocked lawyers from conducting a forensic investigation on election materials.
“Nigerians trusted INEC… and they have disappointed Nigerians in this 2023 General Election.”
He accused INEC of “not working for Nigerians” and urged them to “reconsider the path” that it has chosen.