Nigeria’s presidential and national assembly elections have been delayed by one week and will now take place on Saturday, February 23, authorities said.
“Following a careful review of the implementation of the logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible,” the chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, said at a news conference early Saturday local time.
“This was a difficult decision for the commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of elections and the consolidation of our democracy,” he said.
Polls were due to open at 2 a.m. ET Saturday, February 16.
Elections for governorships, state House of Assembly and area councils are on hold until March 9, the INEC said.
The lead-up to the elections has been marked by violence, prompting warnings from the British and US governments to say they would deny visas and likely prosecute those found inciting violence during the vote.
Two Nigerian electoral commission offices housing voting materials were burned down within the space of a week.
In the presidential election, Muhammadu Buhari, 76, of the All Progressives Congress party, known as the APC, is standing for re-election. He will be running against 71 other presidential candidates.
His main challenger is Atiku Abubakar, 72, of the People’s Democratic Party, or PDP. He is a business tycoon and former vice president.
The vote comes at a critical time for the country’s economy, a lynchpin of the region. The recent oil price crash sent Nigeria’s economy into turmoil when the price of a barrel plunged to $40 at its lowest from a high of $100, leaving the country’s major revenue source depleted.
An estimated 87 million Nigerians now live in poverty, the highest number of impoverished people in the world, according to The Brookings Institution.