Nigeria should delay next month’s elections to give organisers more time to distribute millions of biometric ID cards to voters, the country’s top security official said on Thursday.
Sambo Dasuki, President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Security Adviser, said he had told the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that a postponement within the three months allowed by the law would be a good idea.
The main opposition coalition said it would oppose any postponement, and the electoral commission said it had not received any such official communication from Dasuki.
The elections, currently scheduled for Feb. 14, will be the first where Nigeria’s 68.8 million voters must have a biometric cards — a measure introduced to guard against fraud that has plagued past polls.
But there have been technical glitches in data collection and officials have not explained how they will hold the election in parts of the northeast gripped by a violent uprising by Islamist Boko Haram rebels.
How Africa’s biggest economy conducts this poll will be closely watched by investors and foreign powers, amid the uprising and an economic crisis linked to low oil prices.
Dasuki, speaking at London think-tank Chatham House, said INEC had distributed 30 million cards in the past year but had another 30 million to hand out.
He said INEC had assured him it would achieve this in time for the February date, but he thought it would make more sense to take more time and there was a 90-day window during which the election could legally take place.
“It costs you nothing, it’s still within the law,” Dasuki said he had told the INEC chairman.
Dasuki said it was for INEC and not for him to decide.
“Why are they not ready? Why should we postpone? We say ‘no’ to postponement,” Lai Mohammed, spokesman of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), told Reuters. “They know that if they don’t postpone they can’t win. They are just terrified.”
INEC spokesman Kayode Idowu said there were currently no plans to delay.
“It is not a conversation of the commission’s at all. As far as we are talking now, the date is what it is,” Idowu said.