The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has approved a policy to conduct elections despite the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, announced this in a statement on Thursday.
He disclosed that the strategy tagged “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic” would be released on Monday next week.
Okoye explained that the policy would enable INEC officials and staff to handle the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that it would provide a guide for engagement with various stakeholders as they prepare for the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, as well as some bye-elections.
According to the INEC spokesperson, the commission is committed to conducting all elections that are due within the extant legal framework.
He, however, noted that the electoral umpire would put a premium on public safety and mitigation of health risks from coronavirus.
The commission had earlier announced that it would not postpone the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively.
Read the full statement below:
INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION
POLICY ON CONDUCTING ELECTIONS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met today, 21st May 2020, and approved its “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.
Conducting elections in a pandemic such as COVID-19 is yet uncharted waters. 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 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, 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 2nd June 2020; and
The Media on 3rd June 2020.
CONDUCT OF BYE-ELECTIONS
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 4 Senatorial Districts and read reports of the passing of a Senator and 4 members of some State Houses of Assembly.
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
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.
Festus Okoye Esq.
National Commissioner and Chairman,
Information and Voter Education Committee
21st May 2020.