Nigeria to announce election date on Saturday

LAGOS – Nigerian authorities on Saturday will decide whether to proceed with the country's high-stakes elections on Feb. 14 – as originally scheduled – or postpone it to a later date.

"As a follow-up to [the Council of State] meeting, the [electoral] commission has scheduled a consultative meeting with chairmen and secretaries of all registered political parties, as well as a meeting with resident electoral commissioners on Saturday, Feb. 7," electoral commission spokesman Kayode Idowu said in a Friday statement .

"Thereafter," he added, "the commission will address a press conference to brief the nation on its decision as to whether general elections will be held as scheduled."

Commission Chairman Attahiru Jega on Thursday briefed the Council of State, Nigeria's highest advisory body, on its preparations for the upcoming poll.

The meeting was held amid speculation that the vote could be postponed – a scenario that the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) has described as the handiwork of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati told The Anadolu Agency earlier Friday that no directives had been given to the commission at the council meeting to either go ahead with the poll or postpone it.

Abati's assertion contradicted the impression given earlier – following the council's seven-hour meeting – that the council had asked the electoral agency to go ahead with the election.

According to Abati, the council had asked the electoral body to consult with other state authorities, consider the challenges, and decide whether or not to proceed with the ballot.

Abati added that the electoral body chairman had told the council that up to 34 percent of eligible voters had not yet collected their permanent voter cards, without which they would not be able to cast ballots.

If elections are held on schedule, Nigerians will go to the polls on Feb. 14 to choose a president and members of the federal parliament. Gubernatorial elections and state assembly polls are set to follow on Feb. 28.

Although 14 candidates will vie for top office, the poll is widely seen as a race between President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler.

Buhari is running on the ticket of the opposition APC, an amalgam of political interests that have come together in an attempt to wrest power from Jonathan's PDP, which has ruled the country since its return to democracy in 1999.

Jonathan's national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, a retired military officer, recently suggested that the poll should be delayed because millions of voters had not yet received their permanent voter cards. 

The opposition immediately rejected the proposal, however, dismissing it as an "ill-advised" plot by the ruling party and government to hold onto power.

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