This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news.
On Saturday, 15th February 2019, Nigerians woke up to the news that the Presidential and National Assembly elections had been postponed. Even though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had four years to plan for the polls, Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman, announced the postponement five hours before the elections were to start.
The election scheduled has now been shifted forward by a week, and Nigerians across the country, including those running for office, have expressed their annoyance over the postponement of the polls at the last hour.
But what are the broad economic implications of the decision?
Nigerians can only vote at the polling unit they initially registered for their permanent voters' card (PVC). If a person lives in Abuja, for example, and registered in Adamawa State, she has to travel to Adamawa to vote.
So, a lot of Nigerians travelled to vote. People that moved homes, changed jobs, or left the country had to go back to their polling units. No surprise then that the unexpected change in date has upset a lot of Nigerians who spent money on transport and accommodation.
It is also important to note that journalists, election observers and international correspondents have spent thousands of Naira travelling around the country to document the elections and observe polling activities.
Of course, the flip side of this is the transport and hospitality businesses that will be counting the cash; election weekend was a bumper period for them, and they will relish the opportunity to do it again.
The reality is that a lot of Nigerians cannot or will not come out to vote next weekend. Some will be unable to repeat their travel and others will choose not to, feeling—justifiably—that the INEC decision showed a lack of consideration for them.
This is a major problem because a lot of Nigerians will be disenfranchised and votes will be lost. In the last election cycle, after a 6-week delay, only 33.5% of the eligible voters eventually cast a ballot at the polls.
International investors and local businesses
A lot of businesses shut down their operations in anticipation of the elections. Besides making a loss from halting their business for nothing, they’d have to do it all over again next week. Disrupted social activities like weddings and parties can also cause revenue loss especially for vendors involved in the planning of the event.
This is probably the biggest economic impact of postponement. Election weekend was always going to be a barren economic weekend, albeit for a good cause; as the elections did not hold, Nigeria lost all that economic activity for nothing.
The election postponement will also keep investors away from the Nigerian market. The uncertainty around who will lead the country automatically creates doubt about its political and economic leaning. Therefore, investors will be worried about putting in their money into Nigeria’s market.
All eyes are currently on INEC as the body will have to make adjustments to already incurred costs for the elections. We wait.