Nigeria Postpones State Elections After Contested Presidential Vote

Nigeria’s electoral commission has pushed back elections to choose state governors and lawmakers, which had been due this weekend, to allow more time to reset the electronic voting system at the centre of a dispute over last month’s closely fought presidential poll.

The vote to elect 28 of Nigeria’s 36 state governors will now take place on Saturday, 18 March, a week later than planned, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced late on Wednesday night.

The commission said it needed more time to back up data stored on hundreds of thousands of voter identification devices used in the presidential election on 25 February, then reconfigure them for the state votes.

That process had been held up after opposition parties demanded to inspect the devices in the wake of last month’s vote, which they allege was marred by large-scale tampering.

A court ruled on Wednesday that INEC could proceed with reconfiguring the tablets, but the commission said that the decision had come too late to allow it to finish in time for the state elections originally scheduled for 11 March.

The polls will decide influential governorships, as well as members of each state’s house of assembly.

New technology

As part of the commission’s new digital accreditation system, over 176,000 tablets were used to verify voters’ identity via fingerprints and facial recognition in the presidential election, which was won by the ruling party’s candidate Bola Tinubu.

The devices also serve to transmit results from polling stations to a central database and website.

But the tally from the presidential poll took days to appear online, leading opposition parties to suspect vote rigging in favour of Tinubu and the governing All Progressives Congress.

Atiku Abubakar, the candidate representing Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, has called for the results to be overturned, while Peter Obi, a much hyped challenger from the smaller Labour Party, claims to have won the vote.

According to official results, Tinubu won 37 percent of the roughly 25 million ballots cast, Abubaker took 29 percent and Obi got 25 percent.

Opposition parties have also alleged that long delays at polling stations and intimidation of voters helped sway the poll against them.

In its statement, INEC said it would continue to allow any litigants challenging the results in court to access voting materials. Parties have 21 days from the day the results were announced to launch an appeal.


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