What started as speculations in the evening of Wednesday, March 8, has now been confirmed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The governorship/state assembly election earlier scheduled to hold on Saturday, March 11, has been moved by one week. It will now hold March 18.

There had been multiple reports Wednesday evening quoting anonymous INEC sources to the effect that the exercise had been shifted by one week because more time was needed for the conduct of the exercise.

The reports were flying in while INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu and his commissioners were in a closed-door meeting in Abuja.

However, INEC confirmed the postponement in a press release late Wednesday night.

Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner & Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, who signed the press release, said the postponement was necessary because the commission needed time to reconfigure the BVAS used for the presidential election held on 25 February 2023.

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (EPT) sitting in Abuja had earlier on Wednesday granted INEC’s request to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used for the presidential election. Against all objections, the tribunal argued that preventing the commission from reconfiguring the BVAS would adversely affect the governorship and state assembly elections.

Following the ruling, INEC met to assess the impact it would have on its preparations for the poll. It, thereafter, arrived at the “difficult but necessary decision to reschedule the Governorship and State Assembly elections which will now take place on Saturday 18th March 2023”, Okoye said.

He recalled that after the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on March 3 granted an ex-parte order for some political parties to inspect materials used for the presidential election, including the forensic inspection of over 176,000 BVAS used in the election which are located in INEC LGA offices across the country, the commission had approached the tribunal to reconsider the order, given that the BVAS Systems were to be deployed for the governorship and state assembly elections and the lack of a clearly defined timeframe for the inspection could disrupt the commission’s ability to conduct the outstanding elections.

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“For instance, the BVAS can only be activated on the specific date and time of an election. Having been used for the Presidential and National Assembly elections on 25th February 2023, it is necessary to reconfigure the BVAS for activation on the date of the governorship and State Assembly elections,” he said.

On Wednesday, the tribunal granted INEC’s request to reconfigure the BVAS. While this ruling meant that INEC could commence the preparation of the BVAS for the governorship and state assembly elections, Okoye said it was too late for the commission to conclude the reconfiguration, hence the postponement of the election to March 18.

The postponement of the election also means that political parties and their candidates would now continue their campaigns until midnight of Thursday, 16 March 2023, that is, 24 hours to the new election date, Okoye noted.

“This decision has not been taken lightly but it is necessary to ensure that there is adequate time to back up the data stored on the over 176,000 BVAS machines from the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on 25th February 2023 and then to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly elections,” Okoye said.

“This has been the practice for all elections, including the period when the commission was using the Smart Card Readers (SCRs),” he said.