Nigeria will not postpone presidential vote — INEC

Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) addresses the media after the postponement of Nigeria's presidential election in Abuja, Nigeria February 20, 2019 REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

The head of Nigeria’s electoral commission said it will not postpone next month’s presidential vote despite worries over widespread insecurity including attacks on election officials.

Mahmood Yakubu, speaking at London’s Chatham House think tank, said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was well prepared to facilitate voting in Africa’s most populous nation despite the challenges.

“The commission is not contemplating, let alone planning, to postpone the 2023 general election,” he said. “We are going ahead to conduct the election as scheduled.”

Nigerians are set to choose a new president on Feb. 25, a vote that could have implications across the continent. Current President Muhammadu Buhari is constitutionally term limited after serving two terms.

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Nigeria has some 200 million citizens and Africa’s largest economy and its battle against Islamist insurgents in the northeast has led many to view it as crucial to regional stability, Reuters said.

But Nigeria itself is facing unprecedented insecurity that has seen the INEC itself targeted by violence, including when attackers bombed the headquarters of the electoral commission in Imo state last month.

In 2019, the INEC pushed the election back by a week just hours before voting started, citing logistical issues.

Yakubu said the INEC would facilitate voting in camps for Nigeria’s millions of internally displaced people.

He also said the commission had tested all of its biometric voter identification machines – relatively new equipment that has had some technical issues in recent statewide elections – and was confident that all those registered would be able to cast their votes.

“We’re really really comfortable where we are with the voting machines,” he said.