#ElectionPostponed: One Thing Nigerians Can Do To Avoid This In Future
"We are prepared! We are prepared!! We are prepared!!!," the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) continued to shout in assurance to Nigerians that the election will hold as scheduled.
What has happened overnight that the Commission could identify logistics as a reason it decided to shift the election.
Fire had gutted some INEC's offices in Nigeria and several materials to be used in the election were destroyed and that became a source of concern for Nigerians.
Rigging was what fingers were pointing at, and very few saw a postponement coming.
What right does INEC have to treat Nigerians like this? There was no apology for the inconvenience that the postponement of the election had cost them.
Was it a selfish interest? Was the cost of postponing this election counted before the decision was taken?
What could Nigerians have done to guide against this decision from happening?
Painting a picture of the cost of this postponement is easy since everyone in one way or the other was affected by this decision.
Weddings (owanbe) were shifted. People left their homes for other states either as election observers, ad-hoc staff of INEC or even persons going to cast their votes in their home towns.
Markets were shutdown and schools gave 'by force' mid-term break to students.
All these happened for the long awaited election, but "see us now".
All the cost and waste of time, who will quantify them and who will pay for these lost?
INEC's Power To Postpone Elections
While everyone agrees that the election postponement cannot be remedied, there is something that Nigerians can do to ensure that this does not happen again.
Let us look at the law that gives INEC the right to postpone elections.
Section 26 of the Electoral Act of 2010, with the title "Postponement of election" is explicit about this.
"26. (1) Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the Commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.
"(2) Where an election is postponed under this Act, on or after the last date for the delivery of nomination papers, and a poll has to be taken between the candidates nominated, the Electoral Officer shall, on a new date being appointed for the election, proceed as if the date appointed were the date for the taking of the poll between the candidates.
"(3) Where the Commission appoints a substituted date in accordance with subsections (1) and (2) of this section, there shall be no return for the election until polling has taken place in the area or areas affected.
"(4) Notwithstanding the provision of subsection (3) of this section, the Commission may, if satisfied that the result of the election will not be affected by voting in the area or areas in respect of which substituted dates have been appointed, direct that a return of the election be made.
"(5) The decision of the Commission under subsection '(4) may be challenged by any of the contestants at a court or tribunal of competent jurisdiction and on such challenge, the decision shall be suspended until the matter is determined".
Flaws In The Law
The law did not set a time limit for a postponement decision to be taken and this means INEC could cancel the election any time it likes even when elections had started.
This should be the focus of the amendment of that section of the Act to ensure that the umpire does not just wake up on the day of election and shift it, causing the nation a colossal loss.
The law should put a time limit of days before the election for the INEC to call of the election.
INEC's independence does not mean that it will not be under the control of a law.
Also Read: 7 Implications Of INEC Election Postponement
Its independence could cause the nation a great loss like the one we have in our hands if the laws are allowed to stay the same.
Nigerians can now push their representatives in the Legislative Arm of Government to amend the Act and enshrine in it a time frame for the postponement of elections.
This will ensure that people, who will be travelling, will be sure the election will hold before they leave their homes.
It will also help ensure that voter apathy does not affect Nigeria's elections in any way.
The push should be #AmendElectoralAct.
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