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Just in: Election postponement worst blow to credibility, ease of doing business—Experts

Business analysts have fingered institutional incompetence and complacency on the part of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the last minute postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections earlier scheduled for today (Saturday) by one week and March 2, Guber/House of Assembly elections to March 9th.
In interviews with several business leaders and captains of industry earlier this morning, they expressed anger, saying a lot of business cases that were paused for the weekend election will now continue to hang in the balance pending when the election will actually hold.
Analysts estimate potential loses to come from the one week postponement to hit over $100bn, saying the development has dented ease of doing business by giving an embarrassing signal to both local and international investors.
According to Dr Ken Igboanugo, a Development Economist, “The postponement will build a high deficit on already scheduled business plans and events this week and mainly on next Saturday.
“There are serious business and social events that were originally shifted to next Saturday because today is known for presidential election since last year, now they are all botched because of INEC complacency and poor preparation.
“I still think that quantifying losses coming from the postponement will be inconclusive if no mention is made on travel costs and associated expenses that will now become double without any form of compensation to Nigerians.
“Am aware the entire country witnessed massive trans-state exodus this week because of the election. Many none northerners relocated their home states just like President Muhammadu Buhari left Abuja for Daura in Katsina State.
“When they were planning for the trip, they never imagined to spend more than Monday or Tuesday before returning back to base. Now what would they do and at whose cost?
Dr Igboanugo averred that “As far as this postponement has taken place, it has technically reduced voter-interest which translates to the fact that the total number of votes that would have emerged today cannot be the same with that of next Saturday because many will not be willing to repeat the sacrifices they made for today next week.
“Like I said earlier, this is suspected case of rigging before an election but what is confusing here is who is rigging amongst the leading contestants and INEC itself.
Other experts also argued that the scenario being played out at INEC means that the agency has failed in all ramifications to conduct a credible election even after it confirmed reception of all needed logistic supports and funding from the government.
In another interview, the head of Buhari Media Organisation, Mr Niyi Akinsiju said INEC has been compromised if its claims in postponing the election remain issues of failed logistics.

Checks by Business Hilights correspondents across the nation showed that over 60 per cent of Nigerian voters are yet to know about the new development as they were seen trooping to their voting boots. Besides, the movement restrictions imposed by the Nigeria Police is yet to be lifted following the sudden postponement.
Business Hilights recalls that deep into last night, the chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, read out a five-paragraph statement by 2:50 am on Saturday, attributing the decision to postpone the election to logistic reasons, but refused to entertain any question.
INEC said “The Independent National Electoral Commission met on Friday, February 15, 2019, and reviewed its preparations for the 2019 General Elections scheduled for Saturday, February 16 2019 and Saturday, March 2 2019.
“Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible.
“Consequently, the commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly Elections to Saturday, February 23 2019. Furthermore, the Governorship, State House of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections is rescheduled to Saturday, March 9 2019. This will afford the commission the opportunity to address identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of our elections.
“This was a difficult decision for the commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of our democracy.
“The commission will meet key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2pm on Saturday 16 (today) February 2019 at the Abuja International Conference Centre.”
However, in a swift response, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has rejected the new dates announced by INEC alleging that the fingered shoddy arrangements by INEC was a deliberate agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari to cling on to power even when it said it was obvious to him that Nigerians wanted him out.
National Chairman of the party, Prince Secondus, stated this while reacting to the pronouncements made by the Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu in the early hours of Saturday that the elections had been postponed.
Secondus alleged that the postponement was part of a grand design by the All Progressives Congress to thwart the will of Nigerians at all cost.
He added that the action had clearly exposed INEC as a failure and called on its chairman to resign immediately.
The PDP leader warned that the party will not accept “anything short of a well organised electoral process devoid of manipulation, harassment and intimidation of voters and the opposition particularly members of the PDP.”
“Having failed in all their nefarious options to enable them cling on to power, the APC and the INEC came up with the idea of shifting election, an action that is dangerous to our democracy and is therefore unacceptable.”
Secondus added that the APC in connivance with the INEC “have been trying all options including but not limited to burning down INEC offices in some states and destroying of electoral materials to create artificial problems upon which to stand for their dubious act.”
In a statement, the Buhari Campaign Organization boss, Barr Festus Keyamo said “We condemn and deprecate this tardiness of the electoral umpire in the strongest terms possible”.
“President Muhammadu Buhari had since cooperated fully with INEC by ensuring EVERYTHING it demanded to conduct free and fair elections were promptly made available to it. This news is, therefore, a huge disappointment to us and to our teeming supporters nationwide and around the world, many of whom have come into the country to exercise their franchise.
“We do hope that INEC will remain neutral and impartial in this process as the rumour mill is agog with the suggestion that this postponement has been orchestrated in collusion with the main opposition, the PDP, that was NEVER ready for this election,” APC said.

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT BUHARI ON THE POSTPONEMENT

I am deeply disappointed that despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections within hours of its commencement.
Many Nigerians have traveled to various locations to exercise their right to vote, and international observers are gathered.
INEC themselves have given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections. We and all our citizens believed them.
This administration has ensured that we do not interfere in any way with the work of INEC except to ensure that all funds were released to the commission.
We now urge INEC to ensure not only that materials already distributed are safe and do not get into wrong hands, but that everything is done to avoid the lapses that resulted in this unfortunate postponement, and ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates.
While I reaffirm my strong commitment to the independence, neutrality of the electoral umpire and the sanctity of the electoral process and ballot, I urge all political stakeholders and Nigerians to continue to rally round INEC at this trying national moment in our democratic journey.
I, therefore, appeal to all Nigerians to refrain from all civil disorder and remain peaceful, patriotic and united to ensure that no force or conspiracy derail our democratic development.
I have decided to move back to Abuja to ensure that the 14.00 hrs meeting called by INEC with all stakeholders is successful.

Muhammadu Buhari

Daura, February 16, 2019