The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained while it is necessary for Nigeria to continue with electoral activities in the period of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, health authorities in Nigeria have issued guidelines on how public institutions can protect their workforce and safely serve the public interest.
He made the remarks at the first virtual consultative meeting of the commission with Civil Society Organisations which held on Tuesday.
Yakubu believes the nation’s democracy and electoral activities cannot be truncated as a result of the pandemic.
He noted the guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) based on the advisory from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and global health authorities.
The INEC boss revealed that the electoral umpire has released a policy document on how electoral activities can proceed while mitigating the risk to all involved in the process.
He also hinted that some political parties have notified INEC of the dates for their primaries, adding that this marked the formal commencement of the process for the Edo State governorship election scheduled for September 19.
Read the full text of the INEC chairman’s remarks at the meeting below:
Let me, first of all, welcome you all to this meeting. Although most of you are familiar with teleconferencing, this meeting is nevertheless historic being the first virtual meeting between CSOs and the Commission.
Let me similarly welcome members of the INEC Press Corps who are also covering the meeting virtually. This meeting is one more example of how technology facilitates the consultative meetings necessary for the consolidation of our electoral process in particular and democracy in general.
Engagement with civil society remains at the core of our electoral process. I wish to reassure you that the Commission will continue to deepen such engagement.
No doubt the world is passing through an extraordinary period. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the normal ways of doing things, particularly public engagement. For us as an Election Management Body (EMB), we take the threat to life posed by the pandemic seriously.
Clearly, conducting election under the current global health emergency is novel. Apart from the general policy directions provided by some international organisations that support democracy around the world, only a few countries have conducted elections under the COVID-19 pandemic. There is, therefore, little international best practice to guide election managers in this regard.
However, since health authorities have issued guidelines on how public institutions in Nigeria can protect their workforce and safely serve the public interest, we consider it imperative to proceed with electoral activities in Nigeria.
Our democracy and electoral cannot be truncated due to the pandemic. Drawing from the guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) anchored on the advisory from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and global health authorities such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Commission has released a policy document on how electoral activities can proceed while mitigating the risk to all involved in the process.
I urge civil society to consider this policy as a living document hence the decision to engage with you on how we can strengthen it in a manner that will further engender public confidence, encourage greater citizens’ participation in the electoral process and, most importantly, guarantee the safety and security of voters in the process of exercising their democratic rights to vote.
Your comments and contributions to the 10 items listed in the policy document and consequential amendments to the 2019 Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections are critical, I wish to reassure you that they will be taken into consideration in reviewing the policy as well as the Regulations where necessary.
In addition, we also welcome your input into the implementation of the policy before, during, and after the election.
As you are aware, there are several elections to be conducted in the next few months. The Edo and Ondo Governorship elections have been scheduled for 19th September 2020 and 10th October 2020 respectively.
The first of the 14 activities itemised in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the Edo election has been carried out. The Notice for the Election was published yesterday in our Edo Office and simultaneously on our website and social media platforms for the first time.
The second activity, which is the commencement of party primaries for the nomination of candidates by political parties, begins today and ends on 27th June 2020.
A number of political parties have already notified the Commission of the dates for their primaries. This marks the formal commencement of the process for the September 19th Governorship election in Edo State.
In addition to the two Governorship elections, a number of bye-elections are pending in five Senatorial Districts and five State Constituencies. The Commission is preparing for all the elections.
However, we believe that the frequency of bye-elections in Nigeria requires a rethink. The Commission will engage with the National Assembly and all stakeholders, including civil society, on the way forward.
As usual, civil society organisations will be accredited to observe the elections. However, in the spirit of deepening the use of technology in our electoral process and in line with the new reality of conducting electoral activities under the COVID-19 pandemic, accreditation of observers will be done online.
A dedicated portal has been created by the Commission for this purpose and you will be briefed at this meeting on the new procedure.
Once again, I welcome civil society to our first virtual meeting, and we look forward to a robust discussion as usual. I thank you for your presence and consistent support to the Commission.