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Economic losses of 2019 election postponement

THE dying minutes rescheduling of the 2019 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will come at a great, great economic loss, not just for the commission and stakeholders in the electoral process, but also for a vast majority of Nigerian voters.

It may be difficult to put a particular amount to the losses that this postponement must have brought about, but it sure runs into billions. It becomes painful when one recalls that INEC’s sole responsibility is to plan for elections in Nigeria every four years and that this won’t be the first time elections are being rescheduled at the dying minutes.

So here are just a few of the losses already incurred across board as a result of the shifting of election dates:

Weddings, social activities planned for February 23

Several persons must have planned their weddings for February 23, 2019, invitation cards must have been printed and dispatched, reminders must have been sent, advance payments must have been made, preparations are on top gear. Enter INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, and the rest is history.

Of course, on election days in Nigeria, nothing else happens. One cannot even drive out of one’s home for more than a few hundred metres except for persons on election duty or professionals on essential services. So affected couples must begin preparations all over again.

Voters that had travelled

No thanks to Nigeria’s voting system, despite the introduction of a somewhat computerised voter card, with smart card readers to determine their authenticity, a voter is still allowed to vote only at the polling unit where he or she had registered. Though there’s a provision by INEC for one to transfer one’s voting post to polling unit nearest to one.

So, many had to travel long distances, back to where they registered, in order to be able to vote. Many booked flights and those who cannot afford such ‘luxury’ had to endure the nightmare that is Nigerian roads. All those inconveniences may have come to nought.

A Twitter user, ‘King Zohan‘ wrote: “I flew in for this elections. Booked my return flight for Monday. What do I do now? Wait till Next weekend? Who will see my patients? Nigeria kills our patriotism daily,”.

When this reporter tried to engage him, urging him to find a way to tarry awhile and ensure he votes next weekend, he replied, “Nope… They (my patients) are kids. I work at a pediatric centre. I swapped calls to next week to handle this. All gone to the winds. Truly… everything in Nigeria will kill you.”

There are several hundreds of such Nigerians out there at the moment.

Markets closed

Onitsha in Anambra State, and Aba in Abia State are two cities renowned for commerce. They are also the two strongholds of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) the proscribed secessionist group led by Nnamdi Kanu.

The group had threatened to boycott the elections in the South East, urging the people to sit at home on election day. But just on Friday, Kanu had changed his mind and urged all Igbo people to troop to and vote. He said that some of the IPOB’s grievances had been addressed hence the change of decision.

Kanu has a cult-like followership in the South East, and following his latest directive, shops were closed in Onitsha and Aba as the people anticipated the elections.

Even without Kanu’s directives, markets and shops would have been closed across Nigeria because of the election. It means, therefore, that as a result of this postponement, markets across Nigeria will be closed for two straight weekends. That amounts to a huge amount of lost revenue.

Election observers, monitors deployed

Several local and international media houses, including The ICIR, as well as civil society groups and members of the international community, have deployed hundreds of reporters, observers and monitors across the length and breadth of Nigeria to cover the elections.

Budgets have been calculated and sorted, accommodation, feeding and travel allowances have been disbursed, two-way air tickets have been booked, all those expenses now have been wasted.

A newsroom in Abuja, for example, has already procured plenty of snacks and drinks for its reporters that will not be travelling, as there won’t be any eatery or restaurant opening for business on election day. All those expenses will be incurred over again next weekend, thanks to INEC.

An international journalist, Paul Carsten, who works for the Reuters news agency, recounted on Twitter how he is holed-up in a “cockroach-infested hotel in Daura (Buhari’s hometown)”, his phone stolen, and the election he came to cover, postponed.

Of course, INEC itself must have incurred hundreds of millions of losses. Political parties also, that must have mobilised agents for the various polling units.

Perhaps, these are some of the reasons why some Nigerians insist that someone must pay for this postponement.

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