By Idowu Abdullahi,
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has disclosed that the outbreak of coronavirus in the country will not detter it from going ahead with the commission’s calender for the year, saying plans are underway to conduct the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states respectively as earlier scheduled.
It explained that though deliberations on electoral reform as well as the conduct of some off-season elections had to be suspended because of the global health emergency, the governorship elections as well as nine legislative bye-elections billed to hold in nine states across the nation will hold despite warnings by stakeholders in forefront of fight against coronavirus.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission decision to go ahead with the elections was on the heels of guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on gradual easing of lockdown in preparation for full reopening of the economy.
Yakubu, who disclosed this on Saturday in Abuja during the first virtual meeting of INEC with its Resident Electoral Commissioners RECs, said the outbreak of the novel virus will not disrupt the country’s electoral process.
According to him, the Commission has released its own policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in line with the presidential task force safety guidelines, adding that since the pandemic is the new way of life, the electoral process must continue.
“The Commission is convinced that electoral activities can resume but in full compliance with the advisory issued by health authorities. Consequently, the end of tenure Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for 19th September 2020 and 10th October 2020 respectively will proceed as planned.
“Already, 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.
“While the Commission takes the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, our democracy and electoral process 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.
“The Commission is determined to hold some of the bye-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,” he added.