*Insists Edo, Ondo guber elections will hold as scheduled
*Over 6m voters, 62,697 officials to participate in polls
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it would draw some lessons from Mali and South Korea on how to conduct elections safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission said it would deploy the lessons from these countries in conducting the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states fixed for September 19, and October 10, 2020 respectively as well as other by-elections.
INEC chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this on Saturday at the first virtual meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).
The Guardian reports that both Mali and South Korea held their parliamentary polls in April, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The South Korean health authorities reported that there were no recorded local transmission from the conduct of the parliamentary poll in an election held amid strict safety measures.
Yakubu explained that while the commission takes the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, the nation’s democracy and electoral process cannot be truncated because of the virus.
Saying that the commission was convinced that electoral activities can resume but in full compliance with the advisory issued by health authorities, the INEC chair also insisted that the Edo and Ondo governorship elections would go on as planned.
He disclosed that there are over six million registered voters for the Edo and Ondo guber polls as well as the five senatorial and four State Assembly by-elections spread across nine States of the Federation.
According to him, the number of voters in the off-season polls is equivalent to holding general elections in Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde put together.
He said the commission was determined to conduct some of the by-elections ahead of the two major governorship elections to enable its test run and fine-tune its modified processes in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yakubu stated: “Like every national institution in Nigeria, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our activities. For instance, further engagement with the National Assembly and stakeholders on electoral reform as well as the conduct of some off-season elections had to be suspended because of the global health emergency.
“Happily, the PTF has issued Guidelines on protective measures for the gradual restoration of normalcy nationwide. On that basis, the Commission recently released its own policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Commission is convinced that electoral activities can resume but in full compliance with the advisory issued by health authorities. Consequently, the end of tenure Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for 19th September 2020 and 10th October 2020 respectively will proceed as planned.
“Already, some of the registered political parties have notified the Commission of the dates for their party primaries leading to the nomination of their candidates for the two elections. While the Commission takes the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, our democracy and electoral process cannot be truncated for this reason, particularly because health authorities have advised on measures to protect the public from the virus, including all those involved in elections.
Continuing, he said: “In addition to the two Governorship elections, the Commission is also making preparations to conduct nine legislative bye-elections. Already, vacancies have been declared by the Senate President in respect of four Senatorial Districts (Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa East, Imo North and Plateau South).
“Similarly, the Speaker of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly has declared the seat for Nasarawa Central State Constituency vacant. Information reaching the Commission also indicates the existence of vacancies for the Cross River North Senatorial District, Nganzai and Bayo State constituencies of Borno State and Bakori State constituency of Katsina State.
“The Edo and Ondo Governorship elections as well as the five Senatorial and four State Assembly bye-elections are spread across nine States of the Federation involving a cumulative number of 62 Local Government Areas (LGAs); 687 Registration Areas (RAs); 9,149 Polling Units (PUs) and 6,454,950 registered voters.
“Put in the context of our sub-region, the number of registered voters for these off-season elections is equivalent to holding General Elections in Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde put together. Full delimitation details for the elections have been uploaded on our website and social media platforms.
“The Commission is determined to hold some of the bye-elections ahead of the two major Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States to enable us test run and fine-tune our modified processes in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Already, the Commission has directed the RECs for the nine States where the bye-elections will hold to begin preparations in earnest. At the same time, we are also studying reports of recent elections conducted under the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in places such as Mali and South Korea, for any lessons that will strengthen our processes and protect all those involved.”