The Independent National Electoral Commission on Thursday approved a new policy framework known as Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic.
The commission, in a statement issued by Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, said the policy document would be released on May 25.
Mr Okoye said that the provisions would be applied to the conduct of governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10, respectively, as well as other by-elections to be conducted soon in seven states.
“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,” he said.
Mr Okoye also disclosed that in view of the end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo, INEC would flag off robust engagements with its critical stakeholders to present the policy document by meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on May 30.
He said that the meeting would be followed by that of political parties on June 1, civil society groups on June 2, and the media on June 3.
Mr Okoye noted that in addition to the Edo and Ondogovernorship elections, the commission had received the 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 of today, the Commission is planning for nine by-elections across seven states of the Federation,” he said. The by-elections are 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, BornoState; 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,” Mr Okoye added. He urged all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols issued by the health authorities.