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INEC’s issues Guidelines for COVID Era Elections in Edo, Ondo

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has stated its determination to proceed with conduct of the off-cycle governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, scheduled for September and October 2020. The Commission had faced the dilemma of how to conduct elections in the light of the coronavirus epidemic that has compelled social distancing and reduced contacts, as a way of minimising spread of the disease. Following from its own meetings, the Commission on Monday, May 25 released a document entitled, “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, as it prepares to hold governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, as well as nine bye-elections in legislative constituencies across seven States in Nigeria. The Commission in a statement released on May 21, noted the unprecedented nature of the task before it, as it revs up preparations for the elections in Edo State on 19th September and in Ondo State on 10th October, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. INEC also revealed its readiness to introduce electronic voting in major elections by 2021, stirring anticipation among Nigerians for the Anambra State Governorship election, which will be the first major election in 2021. The policy document further states that the Commission will be receiving nominations from political parties for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections through electronic platforms. Some other activities that will be also be conducted using e-platforms include accreditation of observer groups and deployment of field observers and submission of lists of party agents by political parties.

Political parties have begun to set dates for their primaries in each of the two States. The All Progressives Congress (APC) has slated its direct primaries in Edo State for June 22 and in Ondo State for July 20. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is set to conduct indirect primaries in Edo and Ondo States, on June 23 and July 23, respectively.

Highlights of the Policy Document for the Conduct of Elections

  • Thermometers will be used at Registration Area (Ward), Local Government Area and State collation centres. Election officials and voters will be mandated to wear face masks.
  • Alcohol based hand sanitisers will be provided for election officials, as well as methylated spirit and cotton wool for disinfection of the Smart Card Readers after the fingerprint of each voter is read.
  • The rules of physical distancing will be enforced for all election activities, including stakeholder engagements, trainings, queuing at polling units, etc.
  • INEC will work with the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 and health authorities to establish a system for voluntary COVID-19 testing for INEC staff before and after deployment for elections.
  • All other protocols issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the PTF, State Committees on COVID-19 and relevant health authorities shall be observed by election officials and other stakeholders.
  • Polling unit areas will be redesigned to ensure substantial compliance with social distancing.
  • To accommodate additional activities in setting up the polling units, polls shall commence at 8:30am and close at 2:30pm.
  • Continuous voter registration has been temporarily suspended owing to health risks. However, INEC has committed to cleaning up the register of voters on a regular basis.