Frustrated Nigerians count the cost of postponed elections

Nigerians on Saturday hit out in frustration and anger at election officials after a last -minute delay to voting , just as they were preparing to cast their ballots .Many people were taken unawares by the overnight announcement and only found out when they reached polling stations — to find them empty and unstaffed .

Others counted the cost of a lost day ’ s work in a country where many people are daily wage earners in the informal sector , and some 87 million live in extreme poverty .
In the commercial capital Lagos , streets normally teeming with activity were eerily empty on Saturday morning , with many businesses closed .

“ It ’ s not a good day , ” said David Ujo , a 58 -year – old flower stall owner , watering his plants by the road – side . “ It ’ s like a lost day , no one is around . ”

Many polling units across the city were not even set up , reflecting widespread reports of problems with the distribution of election materials .

“ This is where the polling unit should be , ” said Austin Onwusoanya, who was expected to manage a polling unit in the sandy compound of a secondary school in the Ikoyi area .

He said no election equipment was sent , even as locals continued to enter through the school gates to confirm that the delay was true .

“ They had rolled out the timetable months ago, ” said Onwusoanya angrily .

Many people had planned weddings and other important engagements around election day but now had to reschedule , he added .

– ‘ This is Nigeria !’ –

Meanwhile , dozens of angry men crowded around a stand of the day ’ s newspapers , laid out on the ground under rocks .

Many carried headlines prematurely declaring the polls open . One , the Saturday Independent, read : “ Nigeria Decides Today . ”

Newspaper vendor Samson Onasanya said he was not surprised at the delay, in a country accustomed to last – minute preparations , even for long – standing engagements .

In 2015 , INEC postponed elections by six weeks — but at least did so with one week to go before people travelled back to their home villages and towns to cast their vote.

“ This is Nigeria , this is Nigeria, ” he shouted , adding : “ We are tired of all this.

“ This is not the first time it has happened and it will not be the last time , it is because they don’ t respect we the voters . ”

– Demand for answers –

About 1 , 000 kilometres ( 620 miles ) northwest in Buhari ’ s home town of Daura, in Katsina State , many would – be supporters of the president tried to return to normalcy .

Shops began to open and motorcycle taxis plied the streets for customers .

Many in Buhari ’ s stronghold were also frustrated and suspicious of the reasons for the delay.

“ We suspect foul play , ” ventured Abba Hassan Shehu, a 22 – year – old student .

“ INEC ( the Independent National Electoral Commission ) told us they were ready . How could they now tell us they can ’ t conduct the election ?

“ They should give us a more cogent excuse , ” he said , surrounded by a group of young men who nodded in agreement .

INEC officials in various states also lamented the inconvenience .

In the southern city of Port Harcourt , election officers woke up with shock and anger at the news , after a night spent sleeping out in the open next to election materials .

Many had travelled from faraway places and there was no guarantee voters would return for the rescheduled poll , they said .

Presidential and parliamentary elections are now due on February 23 . Governorship and state assembly polls have been pushed back to March 9 .

( AFP )

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