The Independent National Electoral Commission has said it would flag off robust engagements with critical stakeholders to present a new policy framework that would guide the conduct of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
A statement late Thursday night by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, said the electoral umpire met on Thursday and approved a new policy framework in relation to conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the policy document, which would be unveiled next week Monday, would be presented to Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), political parties, civil society groups and media from Saturday, May 30.
He observed that apart from the Edo and Ondo governorship elections on September 19 and October 10, 2020, the provisions of the policy would be applied to the nine outstanding by-elections.
According to Okoye, the purpose of the document 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, adding that it would also serve as a guide for engagement with stakeholders as they prepare for elections.
He explained that the policy further 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.
He added: “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”.
On the by-elections yet to be conducted by the commission, Okoye revealed: “It is to be noted that in addition to the Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, the Commission has received the official declaration of vacancies for 4 Senatorial Districts and read reports of the passing of a Senator and 4 members of some State Houses of Assembly. As at today, the Commission is planning for nine (9) bye-elections across seven (7) 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 National commissioner urges all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols issued by the health authorities.