The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is pressing ahead with arrangements for all the scheduled elections in the country regardless of the commotion sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the National Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Nigeria cannot afford to allow its democracy and electoral process to be truncated by the pandemic.
Yakubu spoke during a virtual meeting with States Resident Electoral Commissioners.
“While the Commission takes the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, our democracy and electoral processes cannot be truncated for this reason, particularly because health authorities have advised on measures to protect the public from the virus, including all those involved in elections,” he said.
The Commission will conduct the Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa East, Imo North and Plateau South, as well as other by-elections before the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
The INEC chairman said the RECs in the nine affected states have been directed to begin preparations in earnest.
He said that with the virtual meeting “the deployment of communication technology will increasingly become the dominant means of information dissemination within the Commission in particular and the management of the electoral processes in general, including future engagement with stakeholders.”
On the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for 19th September 2020 and 10th October 2020 respectively, Yakubu said “some of the registered political parties have notified the Commission of the dates for their party primaries leading to the nomination of their candidates for the two elections.
“In addition to the two governorship elections, the Commission is also making preparations to conduct nine legislative by-elections.
“Already, vacancies have been declared by the Senate President in respect of four senatorial districts (Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa East, Imo North and Plateau South).
“Similarly, the Speaker of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly has declared the seat for Nasarawa Central State Constituency vacant.
“Information reaching the Commission also indicates the existence of vacancies for the Cross River North Senatorial District, Nganzai and Bayo state constituencies of Borno State and Bakori state constituency of Katsina State.
“The Edo and Ondo governorship elections as well as the five senatorial and four state assembly by-elections are spread across nine states of the federation involving a cumulative number of 62 local government areas (LGAs); 687 registration areas (RAs); 9,149 polling units (PUs) and 6,454,950 registered voters.
“Put in the context of our sub-region, the number of registered voters for these off-season elections is equivalent to holding general elections in Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde put together.
“Full delimitation details for the elections have been uploaded on our website and social media platforms.
“The Commission is determined to hold some of the by-elections ahead of the two major governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states to enable us test run and fine-tune our modified processes in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Already, the Commission has directed the RECs for the nine states where the bye-elections will hold to begin preparations in earnest.
“At the same time, we are also studying reports of recent elections conducted under the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in places such as Mali and South Korea, for any lessons that will strengthen our processes and protect all those involved.”