NIGERIA’S electoral body, INEC, has apologised for postponing the country’s presidential, legislative and senatorial elections from February 16 to 23.
Many Nigerians are yet to come to terms as to why the elections had to be delayed hours before the start of voting.
‘Let me express our deep and sincere regrets as a commission for his turn of event, we take full responsibility and we acknowledge the inconveniences and cost of the shift in dates to citizens, political parties and the communities of election observers,’ said Mahmood Yakubu, chairman Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The INEC chairman warned all election offenders will be prosecuted.
‘The position of the commission is that all violators of the electoral act should be punish according to the provisions of the electoral acts,’ Mahmood Yakubu said.
The postponement of the elections according to some economists has cost Nigeria almost $9 billion, with the country already experiencing negative economic growth and high inflation.
Meanwhile Nigerian fuel suppliers, bus operators and some airlines are offering incentives for people to travel to vote in presidential elections this Saturday, including cutting petrol prices and discounts.
Both of the main parties have expressed concern that the postponement would result in a reduced voter turnout, in part because people who were registered to vote in a different part of the country to where they live would be unable to afford to travel after a wasted trip last Saturday.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) had cut the price of petrol at the pumps to 140 naira per litre from 145 naira. The discount will apply from Friday to Monday.
Mohammed also told reporters the National Union of Road Transport Workers, which has about 2 million members who operate bus routes nationwide, had agreed to provide discounts to travellers ‘looking to travel to their respective voting points.’
Two airlines had also offered discounts to people who showed their voting cards.
President Muhammadu Buhari faces a tight contest against businessman and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, the main opposition candidate, to lead a country that has Africa’s largest economy and is its top oil producer but is plagued by corruption and a wide gap between rich and poor.
The election has been fought over Buhari’s handling of the economy amid fragile growth and growing unemployment as Nigeria recovers from a recession in 2016.
Rising insecurity, notably in regions under attack by Boko Haram and other Islamist militants, is also a big worry.