The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday said COVID-19 pandemic would not truncate Nigeria’s democracy and the electoral process.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this in Abuja in his remarks at the commission’s first virtual meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).
Yakubu said that like it did to every other national institution, the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted INEC activities.
“For instance, further engagements with the National Assembly and stakeholders on electoral reform and the conduct of some off-season elections have 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 Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for Sept. 19 and Oct. 10 respectively, will proceed as planned,” he said.
Yakubu said that some political parties had notified the commission of the dates for their primaries which would lead to the nomination of their candidates for the elections.
According to him, while the commission takes the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, the democratic and electoral processes cannot be truncated because of it.
He said that this was because health authorities had advised on measures to protect the public from the virus, including all those involved in elections.
Yakubu said INEC was determined to hold some bye-elections ahead of Edo and Ondo state governorship to enable it to test-run and fine-tune its modified processes in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The INEC chairman said that already, the commission had directed the RECs for the nine states where the bye-elections would hold to begin preparations in earnest.
He said INEC was studying reports of recent elections conducted under COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Mali and South Korea, for lessons that would strengthen the processes and protect all those involved.
Yakubu said that in addition to the two governorship elections, the commission was also making preparations to conduct nine legislative bye-elections.
He said that the Senate President had declared four vacancies in the senate for Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa East, Imo North, and Plateau South seats.
The INEC boss also said that the Speaker of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly had declared vacant, the seat for Nasarawa Central State Constituency.
He said that the commission also had been informed of vacancies for the Cross River North Senatorial District, Borno’s Nganzai and Bayo Constituencies, and Katsina State’s Bakori Constituency.
Yakubu said the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, the five senatorial and four state assembly bye-elections across nine states would involve 62 Local Government Areas (LGAs), 687 Registration Areas (RAs), 9,149 Polling Units (PUs) and 6,454,950 registered voters.
He remarked that the number of the registered voters for the elections was equivalent to the number that would be involved in holding the general election in Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, and Cape Verde put together.
He said INEC would receive the input of its RECs to the new policy with particular reference to its implementation in the areas of recruitment, training of ad hoc staff, logistics for the deployment of personnel and materials, among others.