... As INEC prepares for two state governorship, nine bye- elections including Senate, House of Reps and state Assemblies
By James Ameh
ABUJA: The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is to meet with its Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, political parties and other stakeholders to discourse the policy document on the conduct of elections during COVID-19 Pandemic.
National Commissioner and Chairman of INEC Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye made this known late Thursday.
Okoye said in a statement that the Commission had earlier met and approved its “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic.”
According to him, the general purpose of the policy was 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", he said.
He stressed that conducting elections during a pandemic such as COVID-19 was yet uncharted waters, pointing out that 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.
"In view of the end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for September 19, 2020 and October 10, 2020 respectively, the Commission will flag off robust engagements with its critical stakeholders to present the Policy Document. To this end, the Commission will meet with: RECs on Saturday, May 30, 2020; Political Parties on Monday, June 1, 2020; Civil Society Groups on June 2, 2020; and the Media on June 3, 2020.
"It is to be noted that in addition to the ,,governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, the Commission has received official declaration of vacancies for four Senatorial Districts and read reports of the passing of a Senator and four members of some State Houses of Assembly. "As at today, the Commission is planning for nine bye-elections across seven states of the federation as follows: Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Imo North Senatorial District, Plateau South Senatorial District and Cross River North Senatorial District.
"Others are Nganzai State Constituency, Borno State, Bayo State Constituency, Borno State, Nasarawa Central State Constituency, Nasarawa State and Bakori State Constituency, Katsina State.
"The provisions of the Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic shall also apply to the conduct of these elections.
"In conclusion, the Commission urges all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols issued by the health authorities," he added.