The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that political parties’ branded face masks/coverings would not be allowed at polling units on election days.
INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said this on Wednesday during a town hall meeting in Nasarawa state with political parties and other election stakeholders.
The meeting was organised by INEC ahead of a Nasarawa Central constituency state House of Assembly bye-election.
It had in attendance the opposition PDP’s representative, Abdullahi Zubairu, and the governing APC’s representative, Muhammed Abdulmumin.
Others in attendance were INEC commissioner for voter education, Festus Okoye, and a representative of the Presidential Covid-19 Task Force, Assad Hassan.
The electoral umpire had announced August 8 for the bye-election.
The election, however, comes amidst a continuing spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Nasarawa state has 341 cases of the infection, according to data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, on Tuesday.
The Nasarawa poll is one of 16 other upcoming bye-elections across the country – and two governorship elections in Edo and Ondo scheduled for September 19 and October 10 respectively.
Yakubu said the Nasarawa election would be used to test run the two governorship elections.
“We are on course for the Saturday elections, every material that ought to be delivered has been delivered, including the sensitive materials
“We have had a good interaction with the political parties and security agencies, my overall assessment is that we are good to go.
“This coming election is very important for us because this is the first election in Nigeria to be conducted in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
“And we deliberately decided to start with Nasarawa Central bye-elections so we can learn the vital lesson that we need ahead of Edo and Ondo governorship elections, as well as 15 outstanding bye-elections and two-state governorship elections.
“So with everything I am satisfied and sure, we look forward to the elections on Saturday.”
The INEC chairman also called on political parties and voters to adhere to the COVID-19 presidential task force protocols, as well as coming along with their own face masks on election day.
“No face masks, no voting, but there is a need for clarification on this. The commission is not insisting on a surgical face mask. But any face covering would do on Election Day.
“Face mask and face covering that are branded with a political party logo would not be allowed because it would look like campaigning.”
INEC had released election guidelines for COVID-19, part of which is the compulsory use of face masks at polling units.
Yakubu also warned that “Anybody who thinks that he can influence people’s choice through violence is wasting his time.
“We would apply the provisions of the law on whoever disrupts the electoral activities.”
“We are carefully monitoring what is happening in Edo and Ondo elections, the commission is meeting tomorrow (Thursday).
“But given the urgency particularly the situation in Edo State, we would have to call a meeting immediately. But whatever we need to do to curtail the ugly reports of violence we would speak to the actors.”
There were reported violence, shootings, and disruption of public peace that trailed the flag-off of the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki’s electioneering campaigns, on Sunday, ahead of the September 19 governorship elections.
In reaction, the two major parties, APC and PDP, traded blames on the violence.