Parliamentary elections in Nigeria have been postponed until Monday 4 April because of the delay in the delivery to many parts of the country of tally sheets for recording both the voting results and the number of voters.

While it would have been possible to start voting in Lagos, Kaduna, Kebbi, Delta, Zamfara and Enugu, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) decided to postpone the national assembly elections for two days.

It is not certain the reason for the delay in the consignment of the recording sheets but some sources, such as the Voice of America and the BBC, are attributing it to their late delivery to Nigeria from abroad.

Voting for members of the federal parliament (109 senators and 360 members of the house of representatives) is the first in a multi-stage electoral process that includes the presidency and 36 governorships. The election for the president is scheduled on 9 April and for 36 governors on 16 April, with Lagos the most prestigious one being contested.

The whole electoral process in Nigeria started late because of the need to renew the electoral rolls after the violent and contested elections in 2007 in which there was extensive electoral fraud and hundreds of people were killed. The elections were originally scheduled for February but were postponed in order to allow for the complete renewal, rather than just the updating, of the rolls.

The re-registration of all those eligible to vote throughout the country got off to a late start in January and also had to be extended for two days in order to complete the process. Over 73.5 million Nigerians are now enrolled in what was essentially a well-ordered process considering the magnitude of the task and the tight schedule. 118,973 polling units are operational across the country with 8,809 reporting areas to collate the results. There is strict security, with police, military, paramilitary and anti-bomb squads deployed in an effort to ensure peaceful voting procedures.

The delay is an inauspicious start to what has been an organisational nightmare. It could mean that voters, some of whom had to travel considerable distances to get to their polling centres on Saturday may have difficulty returning again on Monday. A delay in the parliamentary electoral process could also have a knock-on effect for the presidential and gubernatorial ones.

The incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan (People

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