Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday bowed to pressure and postponed the Edo State governorship election earlier scheduled to be conducted tomorrow September 10.
The election would now hold on Wednesday, September 28.
The Nigeria Police and Directorate of State Service, DSS, had on Wednesday urged INEC to shift the poll over alleged likely terrorists’ attack in parts of the country, including Edo State.
INEC spokesman, Nick Dazang, who spoke on the issue yesterday in Abuja, stated that it was unsafe to go ahead to conduct the poll.
INEC National Commissioner on Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Solomon Soyebi, while also speaking with newsmen in Benin City, Edo State capital, said the decision became inevitable after the commission received official communication at about 6 p.m. from the police and DSS on the need to reschedule the election.
According to Soyebi, the communication received said it is necessary to shift the poll in view of threats of terrorists’ activities in Edo State and other parts of the country during the election and Sallah period.
He said: “The deployment of security personnel nationwide to protect lives and properties will overstretched their (security agencies) capacity to at the same time provide adequate security for the election.
“The commission notes the request of the security agencies and considering the safety implications of proceeding with the election, the safety of eligible voters, electoral officials, including ad-hoc staff and other stakeholders, has decided to reschedule Edo governorship election to Wednesday September 28, 2016.”
The postponement came few hours after the commission had resolved to continue with the conduct of the poll despite the security threat as preparation had reached over 90 per cent.
Investigations also showed that security agencies have withdrawn their personnel deployed for election duty in the state.
But the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, criticized the postponement, even as it reiterated its earlier position that the September 10 date should remain sacrosanct since there was no tangible reason to tamper with the election.
The party, in a statement signed by Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said: “It is shameful and indeed a major constitutional breach for the security agencies to act in concert with the APC to truncate an election that had been planned for months. “Nigerians were not deceived by the obvious concoctions of the security agencies whose performances during elections have been less than average since the advent of the Buhari Administration.
“Indeed, they have become instruments in the hands of the ruling party to harass, intimidate and punish opponents.”
PDP said the time may be ripe now for President Buhari and the National Assembly to conduct a non-partisan holistic review and investigation of the national security apparatus to save the country’s fledging democracy.
“The postponement of the election by INEC is illegal, unconstitutional and a breach of the peoples’ trust in the Commission and the security agencies.
“It is a coup against the people of Edo State, in particular, and Nigerians, in general.
“Since APC assumed power, virtually all elections conducted by INEC have either been inconclusive or truncated.
“Saturday’s election in Edo State must be an exemption. We will not accept anything less than free, fair and transparent election conducted and concluded the same day.
“INEC must rise to the occasion to restore the confidence of Nigerians in its operations. Edo is a test case.
“With the way INEC is performing, how are we sure that it would be able to handle the 2019 national elections.
“Our democracy is under a serious threat from the APC and its Gestapo security agencies,” the party said.
It called on all stakeholders -media, civil society organisations, all political parties and Nigerians and the international community to rise to defend the hard-earned democracy from the assault being unleashed on it by the APC government.
Similarly, Edo State chapter of the party also disagreed with the postponement. The party, in a statement by state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Nehikiare, said the security advice given for postponing the election was orchestrated in connivance with the Adams Oshiomhole-led APC in the face of imminent defeat.
The statement said: “For us, the move by INEC to put off the election is shocking and unacceptable.
“We are taken aback by the rash security advice a day after the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, was present at the final campaign rally of APC in Benin City, which was concluded without any security hitch.”
The party added that it is on record that INEC recently conducted a hitch-free senatorial bye-election in Borno State, a state which had remained a hotbed of terrorism and insurgency, yet the security agencies saw no reason to advise against the conduct of the election.