Ahead of the September 19 Edo State and October 10 Ondo governorship polls and other bye-elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic”.
The general purpose of the Policy is to enable officials and staff of the Commission to understand and respond adequately to the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and to provide a guide for engagement with stakeholders as they prepare for elections.
The clean copy of the policy document, which will be released on Monday 25th May 2020, covers health and legal issues, election planning and operations, election day and post-election activities, voter registration, political parties, election observation, electoral security and deployment of technology.
INEC disclosed this in a statement signed by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye at the end of it’s meeting late Thursday night.
Okoye stated that conducting elections in a pandemic such as Covid-19 is yet uncharted waters and only very few jurisdictions have any experience with this.
“That notwithstanding, the Commission is committed to conducting all elections that are due within the extant legal framework. However, in so doing it will put a premium on public safety and mitigation of health risks from COVID-19. Citizens must be assured that they will be safe while participating as voters, candidates and officials.
“The Commission remains committed to raising public confidence in the electoral process in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic and to regularly communicate its actions and challenges to the public”, he said.
The INEC Chief Spokesman noted that in view of the end of tenure Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for 19th September 2020 and 10th October 2020 respectively, the Commission will flag off robust engagements with its critical stakeholders to present the Policy Document.
To this end, Okoye said the Commission will meet with: “Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Saturday, 30th May 2020; Political Parties on Monday, 1st June 2020; Civil Society Groups on Tuesday, 2nd June 2020; and the Media on Wednesday 3rd June 2020”.
He also disclosed that in addition to the Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, the Commission has received the official declaration of vacancies for 4 Senatorial Districts and read reports of the passing of a Senator and 4 members of some State Houses of Assembly.
The National Commissioner explained that as at today, the Commission is planning for nine (9) bye-elections across seven (7) States of the Federation as follows:
“Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Imo North Senatorial District, Plateau South Senatorial District Cross River North Senatorial District, Nganzai State Constituency, Borno State, Bayo State Constituency, Borno State, Nasarawa Central State Constituency, Nasarawa State and Bakori State Constituency, Katsina State”.
According to him, the provisions of the Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic shall also apply to the conduct of those elections urged all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the Covid-19 protocols issued by the health authorities.