Staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission start confirming over again 7,000 portable permanent voter card readers in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, February 18 2019. Picture: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP
Staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission start confirming over again 7,000 portable permanent voter card readers in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, February 18 2019. Picture: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP

Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that anyone trying to tamper with Nigeria’s postponed vote risked their lives and accused the electoral commission of incompetence.

The Independent National Electoral Commission announced the delay in the early hours of Saturday, just as some of Nigeria’s 84-million registered voters were already making their way to polling stations

Buhari said anyone trying to steal or destroy ballot boxes and voting material in the election now scheduled to take place on  Saturday would be dealt with firmly.

“I have given the military and the police instructions to be ruthless. We are not going to be blamed for the bad conduct of the election,” he told an emergency meeting of senior members of his All Progressives Congress (APC) party in the capital Abuja.

He said anyone trying to intimidate voters or interfere with the voting “will do it at the expense of his own life”.

The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has suggested that Buhari, a former military ruler who was later elected president in 2015, was behind the postponement in order to hold on to power. The governing party has accused the PDP of being behind the delay and colluding with figures within the electoral commission.

The PDP criticised the president’s comments in which he warned people against tampering with election material.

“President Muhammadu Buhari’s threat to the lives of Nigerians, at the opening of APC’s national caucus meeting in Abuja today, is a direct call for jungle justice,” the party said.

All sides have, however, appealed for calm in a country where past elections have been marred by violence and intimidation. So far, there have been no signs of violence or unrest after the Independent National Electoral Commission announced the delay.

Buhari faces a tight contest against the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar to lead a country that has Africa’s largest economy and is its top oil producer but is plagued by corruption and wide gaps between rich and poor.

Reuters