We all woke up this morning to the unfortunate postponement and rescheduling of the 2019 elections which was schedule to hold today the 16th day of February 2019.

This article intends to x-ray the provision of the law as regards the conditions that must be fulfilled before an election that is schedule to hold can be suspended.

The law that regulates elections in Nigeria is The Amended Electoral Act (2010).

Section 26(1) of the Amended Electoral Act 2010 provides and for easy reference, it is reproduced below

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.

From the above provision, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has the right to suspend an election. However, it can only do so in the following circumstances:

  1. Where there is reason to believe that a serious breach of peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with,
  2. Where it is impossible to conduct the election as a result of natural disasters
  3. Other emergencies.

The reason or reasons proffered by National Electoral Commission (INEC) via its press release reads in part as follows:

“The independent national electoral commission (INEC) met on Friday 15th February 2019 and reviewed its preparedness for the 2019 general elections schedule to hold for Saturday 16th February 2019 and Saturday 2nd march 2019.

Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan and the determination to conduct a free, fair and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with elections as schedule is no longer feasible”.

Based on the above press release, one is left to wonder what is the exact reason why the elections were suspended. Assuming such was done base on the alleged review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan, such reason does not fall under the 1st and 2nd situation where an election can be postponed.

Let’s now examine this reason in light of the 3rd circumstance (other emergencies). Does the review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan fall under other emergencies?

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines Emergency Circumstances under Exigent Circumstances as

“A situation that demands unusual or immediate action and that may allow people circumvent normal usual procedure…

So the next question that comes to mind is that, how does the review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan constitute a situation that demands an unusual and immediate action? The press release leaves us with a lot to wonder. It is so vague and ambiguous that leaves the common man with a lot of interpretation. The National Electoral Commission (INEC) should come out clear and tell us the reason behind the suspension.

It is also worth stating that the law does not provide as to the time limit when an election can be postponed and reschedule. We are however left with morality to only ask questions such as?  Does a review happen a day to the day in which an event is to take place? The National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman had on different occasions told Nigerians that they were ready for the 2019 elections. In one of the interview where he was categorically asked if the elections will be postponed and he categorically said no. why then in the wake of the day has he suddenly realized they were not ready? The National Electoral Commission (INEC) had more than 3 years to prepare for this election.

Based on the above, I see the act of the National Electoral Commission (INEC) as not within the ambit of the law as merely stating a reason without such reason falling within the provision of the circumstances stipulated by law does not make right their action.

I demand that the National Electoral Commission (INEC) come out clearly and clarify this position. We are in a democratic era. The National Electoral Commission (INEC) was established by the virtue of the law and it must learn to also obey the law.

(Wakji Charles Wukatwe is a Legal Practitioner in Yola Adamawa State. He can be reached via charlzwakji@gmail.com )

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