Decision to delay election is 'bad news for Nigeria'

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's administration has been accused of instigating the delayAfolabi Sotunde

The Archbishop of Abuja in Nigeria is demanding answers after presidential and parliamentary elections that were due to be held on Saturday were called off at the last minute. 

The Independent National Electoral Commission stunned Nigerians when it announced that the elections were being pushed back to February 23 just hours before the polls were supposed to open on Saturday. 

Commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu said it had been necessary to delay the poll to ensure that they were fair and free.

'Proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible,' he said.

The announcement immediately prompted accusations from the opposition of a deliberate ploy by President Muhammadu Buhari's administration to disenfranchise voters.

Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, told Vatican news that the announcement had come as a huge shock and disappointment to Nigerians, many of whom had travelled some distance to cast their votes. 

'We woke up early this morning to hear that the elections have been postponed for a week. The reasons given are still not clear and are certainly not adequate, he said.

The cardinal said that although security was an issue in the north-east of the country because of ongoing attacks by militant group Boko Haram, this should not have been cause to postpone the election.

'But we knew of all this more than four years ago, so there was plenty of time to take action and make sure the election went on; and in fact up to yesterday afternoon the Electoral Commission called a press conference, with observers from all over the world, and assured them that things were in good shape and that we were ready for the election this morning,' he said. 

He added that whatever the reason for the delay, it did not bode well for Nigeria. 

'Whatever it is, it's bad news for Nigeria,' he said.