Lawyers on Saturday affirmed the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reschedule elections but noted the Commission damaged its credibility with how it shifted presidential and national assembly polls.
Chief Niyi Akintola SAN observed the Electoral Act permitted the Commission to make polls adjustments in the national interest.
Section 26(1) of the Electoral 2010 (As Amended), says: “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.”
Akintola said: “INEC has powers to postpone polls. But the sad thing about this postponement is that it waited till very late at night, an unholy hour, disrupting the economy, the political lifeline of the country, the social traffic of the country.
“To make matters worse, INEC National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, denied around midnight that there was any postponement.
“People have travelled far and wide, Mr President travelled to his state, the Vice President had travelled. Practically everyone that is somebody had travelled back to their constituencies.
“See what it has caused the country? Yet there was no apology from INEC. It’s a big disappointment and has cast doubt on the credibility of the election.”
He urged INEC to learn from its mistakes and up its game.
Activist-lawyer Ebun-olu Adegboruwa noted that notwithstanding INEC’s powers, the postponement was “totally unacceptable.”
He invited the national assembly to audit and probe INEC through a Commission of Inquiry.
Adegboruwa said: “The postponement has unwittingly eroded the credibility of the elections and the capacity of INEC, in spite of the huge resources committed to it and the length of time available for planning and logistics.”
He argued: “INEC should not have waited till the dying minutes before announcing the postponement, since it was well aware of all its handicaps long before now.”
The lawyer appealed to “all Nigerians to be patient and give room for a proper election at the times rescheduled for it by INEC. No sacrifice should be too great for us as a people to get us to the destination of our dreams.”