Postponement of 2019 elections, my most painful decision ― Professor Yakubu

• Demands expeditious amendment of Electoral Act

Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and nominee for a fresh term of five years, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu has said the postponement of the 2019 general elections by one week was the most painful decision in his first tenure at the commission.

Professor Yakubu made the disclosure on Thursday while appearing before the Senate Committee on INEC led by Senator Kabiru Gaya for screening ahead of his confirmation.

The February 16 Presidential and National Assembly elections were postponed by a week in 2019, courting national outrage.

Speaking with newsmen at the commission’s headquarter on the eve of the election, Professor Yakubu said the conduct of the election was not feasible after his review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan.

Asked by members of the Senate Committee for his most difficult challenge, the nominee said “it was having to postpone the 2019 general elections for a week. It was the most painful decision.”

He, however, told the lawmakers that INEC has since surmounted its logistics challenges, citing the seamless conduct of Edo and Ondo States governorship elections.

“But learning from that, we are working very fast to ensure that it doesn’t happen again as we approach 2023. We have learnt a lot and elections are getting better.”

Professor Yakubu said he was determined to ensure that the electoral process was transparent and credible in Nigeria to earn the trust of the electorate.

He tasked both chambers of the National Assembly to ensure speedy amendment of the Electoral Act.

“We have to be open and transparent in the way we manage public trust. My hope and commitment is for Nigerians to believe that their votes will count. I want to see how the electoral process will benefit from the use of technology.

“We can’t continue to work in an environment of uncertainty. So, I urge the National Assembly to expedite action on amendment to the electoral act and I am confident that the House of Representatives and Senate will do it expeditiously. I hope you will give us a brand new Electoral Act by the first quarter of next year.”

Responding to Senator Opeyemi Bamidele’s request for diaspora voting, Professor Yakubu said it has been a recurring decimal but maintained that INEC could only operate within the confines of the Electoral Act and the Constitution and noted that both documents have no provisions for Diaspora voting.

“We can’t run faster than what the law provides. We have identified the areas of the amendment to enable Nigerians to vote outside the country.

“So we need to amend the Electoral Act. On our own, we have contacted the National Intelligence Agency, the Ministry of Defence and the Diaspora Commission. But we must amend the electoral act to put smile on the faces of Nigerians outside the country. I think Nigerians living temporarily outside the country who are working in Embassies should be allowed to vote, including the media and Civil Society Organisations. The ball, like I said is in the court of the National Assembly.”

Also answering questions from lawmakers, nominees for the position of North West National Commissioner, Professor Abdullahi Abdu Zuru said he has no affiliation with any of the registered political parties.

“I haven’t been a card-carrying member of any political party and I haven’t contested any election.”

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