By G9ija

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to put premium on public safety and mitigate health risks from COVID-19 for the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections.

In a statement issued after several hours meeting on Thursday in Abuja, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, the Commission also revealed that it will flags off robust engagements with critical stakeholders as from next week.

The Commission also disclosed that it will conduct no fewer than nine bye-elections in seven states of the federation.

The statement tagged ‘Policy on Conducting Elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic’, read: “INEC met 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 May 25, 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,” It read.

On engagement with stakeholders, the Commission said: “In view of the end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for September 19, 2020 and October 10, 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, May 30, 2020; Political Parties on Monday, June 1, 2020; Civil Society Groups on June 2, 2020; and The Media on June 3, 2020,”
While reacting to conduct of bye-elections, the electoral umpire disclosed that; “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 four Senatorial Districts and read reports of the passing of a Senator and four members of some State Houses of Assembly.

“As at today, the Commission is planning for nine bye-elections across seven 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 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. The Commission urges all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols issued by the health authorities,” the statement read.