THE COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to approve a new framework, “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic,” which will provide a guide for future elections.
In a statement, Friday, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, in Abuja stated that the new provisions would be used in the conduct of governorship poll in Edo State in September 19 and Ondo State billed for October 10.
The policy document, which would be released on May 25, will also be used in other by-elections to be conducted in seven other states.
In the statement, Okoye stated: “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.
“It is also 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, May 25), covers health and legal issues, election planning and operations, election day and post-election activities.
“It also covers 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.”
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Okoye also disclosed that INEC would flag off constructive engagements with stakeholders, like political parties, the media and civil society groups to present the policy by meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on May 30, especially in view of the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
Disclosing that the meetings with the stakeholders will span three days, Okoye noted that INEC, “is planning for nine bye elections across seven states of the Federation,” because in addition to the Edo and Ondo elections, the commission has notice of vacancies for four senatorial districts, the death of a senator.
There are the bye-elections in Bayelsa Central and West senatorial districts, 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.