Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Thursday said it had approved its policy on how to conduct elections during a pandemic, insisting that Edo and Ondo state governorship elections would hold as scheduled.
It explained that although holding an election in a period of public health crisis was an uncharted course, it would nevertheless developed protocols, for the electoral activities, which would place a premium on public safety and mitigate the health risks from COVID-19.
Specifically, the commission said the two elections would hold on September 19 (Edo) and October 10 (Ondo).
The commission also listed areas where there are senatorial election vacancies.
“As at today, the commission is planning for nine bye-elections across seven states of the federation, including Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Imo North Senatorial District and Plateau South Senatorial District,” INEC said in a statement by its National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Information, Mr. Festus Okoye.
The commission added that it received notification on vacancy in Cross River North Senatorial District; Nganzai and Bayo State Constituencies in Borno State; Nasarawa Central State Constituency, Nasarawa State; and Bakori State Constituency, Katsina State.
It said 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 statement said a clean copy of the policy document, which would be released on Monday, would cover 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 statement said.
It added that INEC remained 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.
The commission said in view of the end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, it would start robust engagements with critical stakeholders to present the policy document.
To this end, it said the commission would meet with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Saturday, May 30 to be followed with political parties on Monday, June 1, civil society groups on June 2 and the media on June 3.
Apart from the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, the statement said the commission had received an 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.
It stated that 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.
The commission urged all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols issued by the health authorities.