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INEC inaugurates survey group on 2019 general elections

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Politics

INEC to voters: Don’t wear party-branded face masks to polling units

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Ahead of the governorship elections scheduled to hold on Sept. 19 and Oct. 10, INEC has warned voters in Edo and Ondo against wearing face masks with the logo of their political parties, to polling units.

Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Electoral Operations and Logistics Committee (EOLC), gave the warning on Wednesday in Abuja, during the commission’s first virtual consultative meeting with media organisations.

“Wearing of face masks to polling units will be compulsory, but any voter with branded face masks will be turned back from the polling unit,” he said.

He, however, said that INEC would not provide or share face masks to voters during polls.

Ibeanu, in his presentation at the meeting presided over by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said that the commission could not afford the cost of providing face masks to registered voters in the states.

According to him, it will cost not less than N640 million to provide face masks to all registered voters for the elections.

INEC cannot provide these face masks. If we were to provide these masks for the registered voters, we are talking about 6.4 million voters.

“Even if you handed out masks costing N100, that is about N640 million already.

So, should INEC be spending N640 million handing out masks that voluntary organisations and government agencies can actually give to people, if we had a national campaign for this purpose?” Ibeanu asked.

He, however, urged the media to sensitise people on the need for individuals and organisations to donate and distribute face masks to the people, not just during elections but at all times.

“It is not just about the election. It is just that it will help in the circumstances of the pandemic.

“I don’t think anybody in Nigeria should not have access to face masks now. But the more important thing is that people can also improvise and they need to understand that they can do so,” he added.

The national commissioner also said that the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) and the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), before the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, as well other by-elections would not be feasible.

Ibeanu said that there was no need for the distribution of the PVCs before the elections as the nation just came out of a general elections last year.

Since the 2019 general elections, there has not been new CVR. If the collection of the PVCs is allowed for Edo and Ondo polls, the same demand will be made for bye-elections, causing other challenges.

“So, after much consideration, we decided not to allow collection of PVCs before the elections,” he said.

He disclosed that with the new policy document on conducting elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, voting would commence at 8.30 am and close by 2.30pm as against the usual 8 am to 2pm.

Another National Commissioner, Mohammed Haruna, also said that the commission did not envisage the postponement of any election because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, said that INEC was  determined to be part and, indeed, lead the process of innovation and creativity in the electoral process.

He said that the commission would not throw in the towel and postpone all elections to an indeterminate period.

“Throwing in the towel in our constitutional circumstances may do violence to the constitution and wittingly or unwittingly throw the country into avoidable constitutional crisis.

“The commission is therefore determined to proceed with the two governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States and the 10  Senatorial and State Assembly elections.

”These exercises will  be done with caution, bearing in mind that the health and safety of the people will be crucial determinants of the success or otherwise of the elections,” Okoye said.


Edited By: Chinyere Nwachukwu and Ephraims Sheyin (NAN)

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Judiciary

Deregistration: INEC asks court to dismiss 31 political parties’ application

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday, prayed a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to strike out the prayers of deregistered 31 political parties, saying “their application is frivolous.”

Counsel to INEC, Alhassan Umar, SAN, told Justice Anwuli Chikere at the hearing of the substantive suit challenging the deregistration of political parties.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that INEC had, on Feb. 6, deregistered 74 political parties, leaving 18 others.

However, in a motion on notice with suit number: FHC//ABJ/ CS/444/19 between Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) and 32 others Vs. Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and INEC (1st and 2nd respondents respectively) the applicants approached the court for restraining order.

Although 33 political parties filed the matter in court, two of the parties; Labour Party (LP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC) were later dropped from the suit because the parties were not deregistered by INEC.

Justice Chikere had, on May 29, fixed June 3 to hear the substantive matter.

At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Chinedu Obienu announced his appearance for the party seeking to be joined in the suit.

Obienu told the judge that his client, Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) was also affected by INEC’s action and that they sought to be joined in the suit in order to avoid case multiplicity.

“We have a motion on notice dated and filed on March 4, praying for the order of this honourable court joining the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) as a plaintiff which was purportedly deregistered on the 6th day of February, 2020, by the 2nd defendant.

“The prayers of the plaintiffs are the same with the prayers of the applicant and we do this so that there will be no multiplicity of suit.

We have a 34-paragraph affidavit and 10 exhibits. We have filed a written address for this motion and we urge this court to grant this application in the interest of justice to join others against the 2nd defendant,” he said.

The lawyer told the court that the plaintiffs and the defendant had been served with their motion.

Counsel to the 31 political parties, Kehinde Edun, and INEC’s Lawyer, Umar, did not oppose the application.

When Edun told the court of his intention to take his application on order of interim injunction granted by the court on Feb. 17, restraining INEC from deregistering the parties pending the determination of the matter, Justice Chikere turned down the request, saying: “We are going to substantive suit today.”

According to Edun, the order was to undo what the 2nd defendant has done.

The judge said though she understood the argument of the lawyer, “I cannot treat interlocutory injunction and substantive suit together. Let us go to the substantive suit and address the matter.”

Chikere stated further that part of her ruling on Feb. 17 was to take the substantive suit.

Edun, then, moved his motion on the amended originating summon dated Oct 29, 2019 and filed on Oct 30, 2019.

My Lord, there are five issues for determination and we are asking for seven reliefs as it appears on the amended originating summon.

My Lord, we also have a 45-paragraph affidavit in support and we adopt the written address attached,” he said.

Edun also informed the court that a further affidavit was filed on June 1 with 23 paragraphs and a written address to counter INEC’s response.

According to him, we are not saying that the 2nd defendant (INEC) has no power to deregister; our contention is that this power has not accrued.

Quoting the relevant section of the law, Edun said: “You don’t condemn a man unheard.”

He said the political parties had not breached the sections of the law that allowed for the deregistration of a party after all governorship, chairmanship and counsellorship elections must have been heard.

On his part, Umar said INEC filed a counter affidavit to the amended originating summons.

“We filed it on Feb 24 and we rely on all the positions therein. We also filed a written address on Feb. 24 and we rely on this as our argument in the case,” he said.

The lawyer, who described the further affidavit and written address of the plaintiffs as “incompetent,” told the court to discountenance the applications.

He argued that the plaintiffs were served on Feb. 24 but only replied to their counter affidavit on Tuesday.

He said by virtue of Order 13 Rule 50 of the court which gave them 14 days to respond to a counter affidavit, he urged the court to discountenance the application.

He argued that the plaintiffs neither asked for an extension of time to file their application nor proffered their facts in accordance with Section 115(2) of the Evidence Act.

Umar reminded the court that Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in a judgment delivered on May 18 in a suit number: /211/2020 between National Unity Party (NUP) and INEC, had settled the matter.

“Your learned brother, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, has settled this issues in a very recent decision,” he said.

He said that Justice Taiwo overruled the NUP in its argument that the power of the electoral umpire to deregister them was not exercisable.

He said that there was no provision in the constitution for INEC to communicate its intention to any political party that did not meet the requirements.

My Lord, their applications are frivolous and lack merit. They have no material at all.

“We urge this honourable court to dismiss the application. It is a distraction to the electoral process,” Umar remarked.

Responding, Edun, though admitted that the further affidavit was filed behind scheduled time, argued that INEC also filed its counter affidavit behind scheduled time.

“Once your own is granted, ours too should be granted,” he stated.

Justice Chikere, after listening to the counsel, adjourned the matter until June 11 for judgment.

The affected parties are Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP) All Blending Party (ABP) All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP) Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP) Democratic People’s Congress (DPC) Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Green Party of Nigeria (GPN)  among others.


Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Politics

Elections: INEC to implement measures to mitigate COVID-19 impact – Yakubu

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reassured Nigerians that it would continue to adopt and implement measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s electoral activities.

 

 

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Wednesday gave the assurance at the commission’s first virtual consultative meeting with media organisations.

Yakubu solicited media cooperation and support in disseminating required information that would help to protect the health of voters and all those involved in electoral activities.

According  to him,  as usual, the Commission welcomes media comments and suggestions, as critical stakeholders involved in reporting and analysing our democracy and electoral process.

As citizens, the Commission believes that your opinions and suggestions will be of immense benefit to our electoral activities.

The Commission, therefore, values your contributions to policy formulation and implementation,” he said.

Yakubu said that COVID-19 pandemic had necessitated a rethink of many activities that had been taken for granted.

“With regard to the conduct of elections, the world is clearly sailing through uncharted waters.

“Only a few countries have conducted elections since the reported outbreak of the pandemic in December 2019.

“However, health authorities have issued guidelines on protective measures against the spread of the virus and the response to any emergencies that may occur,” Yakubu said.

Pledging INEC’s continued partnership with the media on voter education, the INEC boss disclosed that an online portal had been set up for media accreditation for Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections.

According  to him,  the Commission has always accredited media organisations to cover elections and to ensure your unimpeded access to voting locations and collation centres.

The forthcoming Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections as well as many bye-elections across the country will not be different.

“However, in tandem with the new health reality, accreditation of media organisations for these elections will be done online through a dedicated portal,” Yakubu said.

He pledged the commission’s commitment to continue to ensure that media carried out their responsibilities without any form of hindrance.

The President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, in his remarks, commended the steps taken so far by the INEC in conducting elections during pandemic.

Isiguzo pledged the continued support of the media for successful elections.

He, however, called on the commission to give the same support to the media, especially for them to carry out their responsibilities without any form of harassment by the security agencies.

 


Edited By: Oluyinka Fadare/Felix Ajide (NAN)

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Politics

INEC seeks CSOs’ inputs on new policy to guarantee voters’ safety

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has sought the contributions of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to its new policy on conducting elections during  the COVID-19 pandemic, in a way that would guarantee safety and security of voters.

The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the request at his first virtual consultative meeting with CSOs on Tuesday.

Yakubu described the document recently released by the commission as a living document which required the input of stakeholders for its effective implementation.

I urge CSOs 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.

“On how to 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,” he said.

Yakubu said the engagement with civil society organisations remained at the core of the commission’s electoral process, assuring that the commission would continue to deepen such engagement.

Speaking on INEC’s preparations for Edo governorship election, the chairman disclosed that as usual, CSOs would be accredited to observe the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, as well as the upcoming by-elections

“However, in the spirit of deepening the use of technology in our electoral process and also 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.


Edited By: Chioma Ugboma and Abdullahi Yusuf (NAN)

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Politics

Edo Gov Poll: INEC set up dedicated portal for form submission 

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has set up a dedicated portal through which political parties contesting for Edo governorship scheduled for Sept 19, will submit the nomination forms of their candidates.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this on Monday, during  the first virtual consultative meeting of the commission with leaders of political parties.

 

Yakubu, however, warned political parties against changes in the date for the conduct of their primaries for the election, as the portal would be automatically shutdown on the scheduled dates.

 

 

“Party primaries for the nomination of candidates for the Edo Governorship election begin tomorrow. Already, some political parties have invited the commission to monitor their primaries which must be conducted from 2nd to 27th June 2020.

” This time around, the submission of nomination forms will be done online for which a dedicated portal has been set up.

“Let me therefore warn political parties that intend to field candidates for the election to strictly adhere to these dates as well as the new online procedure for filing of nominations. Any party that operates outside these dates will only have itself to blame.

“The portal will automatically shutdown on the scheduled date and at the fixed hour. The Legal Department and ICT will brief this meeting on the new procedure,” Yakubu said.

The chairman advised parties on the need to conduct rancour-free primaries, and to  avoid acts of thuggery, brigandage, vote-buying and other sundry violations of the Electoral Act.

Yakubu also directed parties that opted for direct primaries to provide the commission with the list of their registered members, while those going for indirect primaries must also provide INEC with the list of their delegates.

“As we monitor the conduct of party primaries, we will pay particular attention to your compliance with the law and to consider sanctions so that the unruly behaviour of some party supporters is not carried forward to the main election.

“At the same time, I wish to appeal to political parties that opt for direct primaries to avail us with the register of members to be used for the election from Ward to Local Government and State levels for the effective discharge of our monitoring responsibilities under the law.

“Those that opt for indirect primaries should similarly make available to the commission,  the list of delegates for the election. Doing otherwise will amount to going into an election without the voters’ register.

“The commission makes available to each political party, the complete register of voters before every major election. We expect political parties to reciprocate for their primaries,” he said.

Yakubu disclosed that the commission had already carried out the first out of the 14 activities it lined up for Edo governorship election, as the notice for the election (Form EC60A) had been pasted in its Edo state office.

The INEC chairman, who stressed the need for a national conversation around the frequency of bye-elections in Nigeria, said in the month of May 2020 alone, five members of State Houses of Assembly passed on.

He added that since December 2019, a period of six months, twelve members of the National and State Houses of Assembly had similarly passed on.

“This is in addition to the resignation of two Senators from Bayelsa who have since been sworn-in as Governor and Deputy Governor of the state.

“The cost of conducting these bye-elections to the commission, the security agencies, political parties and candidates, election observers, the media, litigations (both pre-election and post-election) and disruption of activities as a result of the restriction of movement on election day is enormous.

“There is no election season in Nigeria any longer. The commission is busy conducting elections all-year round between one general election and another.

“This often diverts our attention away from reform, innovation, peer learning and planning for the consolidation of our electoral process.

“The commission is going to open a discussion with stakeholders and the National Assembly for necessary reforms toward more cost-effective and democratic options,” he said.

Yakubu welcomed the input of party leaders to the new policy for conducting elections under the COVID-19 pandemic recently released by the commission.

In his response, Interim National Chairman, Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC), Dr Leonard Nzenwa, commended INEC for its policy for conducting elections under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nzenwa, who is also the National Chairman, African Action Congress (AAC), said organising elections in a pandemic era and in an national emergency period would no doubt be an uphill task.

” For undertaking elections in normal period has never been easy, and definitely will not be less daunting this season.

“It is in the light of this, we, the political parties will  want to commend INEC for the bold step it has taken to come up early with a well-heeled policy on conducting elections in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.

” Indeed, the measures outlined to tame the scourge in the document is realistic, exhaustive, health-sensitive, safety-induced and in tune with reality of the times.

“Our checks so far show that globally,   INEC is the first national election organising body to have done this, not even USA, India, Pakistan has codified effort to respond maximally, politics-wise to the pandemic in an enclosed one-all document as it did. And this was done swiftly!

“It is also gratifying to note that the document received  wide commendation across board and is now being  referenced. And last week we commended the commission via a plethora of media for its effort.

“From high-end issues as health and safety concerns, legal matters, election planning and implementation to elections operations to materials handling, staff management and ad hoc recruitment

” Placement to logistic, transportation and passenger management to queuing arrangement in polling units, crucial areas in pre and post election preparation and management were properly captured,” he said.

Nzenwa,  however, called on INEC to be ready, and willing to review some aspects of the policy document regarding  concerned misgivings by stakeholders who strongly felt that some of its provisions might not be feasible when it was lifted from paper for implementation.

He expressed the resolve of IPAC to work with INEC in deepening engagement with all stakeholders, especially the electorate by properly informing them about their roles and responsibilities during election in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.

He urged INEC to ensure that minimal discomfort was imposed on voters and other stakeholders in its quest to ensure that the nation had credible and acceptable polls during the Edo, Ondo and other by-elections.


Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Felix Ajide (NAN)

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Politics

COVID-19 won’t truncate Nigeria’s electoral process – INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday said COVID-19 pandemic would not truncate Nigeria’s democracy and 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 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.



Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Ejike Obeta (NAN)

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General news

Heed NCDC guidelines on Edo, Ondo governorship polls, Group urges INEC

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An interest group, Governors Mandate Network (GMN), has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to closely monitor political parties, ahead of Edo and Ondo elections, to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 prevention protocols.
The Chairman of GMN, Mr Osaro Onaiwu, made the call in a statement issued on Tuesday in Abuja.
He stressed the need for political parties to ensure strict compliance with the protocols established by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to prevent further spread of coronavirus before and during the governorship elections in the two states.
According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic is still very active in the country, adding that political parties and politicians must not be careless in their activities so as not to endanger the lives of Nigerians under the guise of electioneering.
Onaiwu said that the world was watching INEC on the way and manner it wanted to go about the governorship elections scheduled for September and October in Edo and Ondo states respectively.
“Anything short of a modest election process that will ensure minimum mass gathering will not be acceptable to health-conscious people,” he said.

Edited By: Francis Onyeukwu and (NAN)‘Wale Sadeeq

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Politics

INEC to pilot use of electronic voting machines soon — Yakubu

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is to pilot the use of electronic voting machines at the earliest time possible towards full introduction of electronic voting in major elections in 2021.

The commission disclosed this in a policy document titled “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic” signed by INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, officially released on Monday.

 The commission, however, clarified that such pilot scheme would not be used for Edo and Ondo governorship elections scheduled for  Sept. 19 and Oct. 10, respectively.

Yakubu also disclosed the decision to suspend the Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR) for the time being to prevent the health risks associated with it in the context of COVID-19.

He stressed on the need to continue to make available INEC’s electronic channels for voters to check their registration status.

“The Commission recognizes the critical role that ICT will play in an electoral process that is being vastly reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the growing demands by Nigerians for the deepening of the use of technology in our elections.

“Consequently, the Commission shall continue to apply relevant, value-for-money technology in all aspects of the electoral process and election management,” he said.

According to Yakubu, the policy also includes the creation of e-platforms for certain INEC activities, including accreditation of observer groups and deployment of their field observers.

He said activities to be conducted online also include submission of nomination forms by political parties for candidates, tracking and reporting of campaigns and campaign finance by/for candidates and political parties.

Others include submission of party agents lists by political parties, adding that in accreditation and deployment of observers, the Commission shall request and receive applications for election observation exclusively online.

“Reduce the number of accredited observer groups based on past performance and compliance with Commission’s guidelines for election observation.

“This is to reduce crowding and therefore health risks at election venues. Reduce the number of field

observers,” he said.

On health issues, Yakubu noted that the most immediate challenge that COVID-19 poses to the electoral process was health-related.

He stated that in order to protect voters, election officials and other stakeholders in the electoral process, the commission shall implement some measures.

They include supply and use infrared thermometers at the Registration Area Collation Centres, the Local Government Area Collation Centres and the State Collation Centres.

Also, “the use of face masks is mandatory for all involved in the election process and must be worn at all election locations.

“The Commission shall provide face masks for all election officials; and Alcohol-based hand sanitizers will be provided for election officials at the polling units.

“Methylated Spirit and cotton wool will be provided for the disinfection of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) after the fingerprint of each voter is read.

“The rules of physical distancing shall be enforced at all election activities including stakeholder engagements, training, queuing at Polling Units, amongst others.”

Yakubu added that all protocols issued by the NCDC, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, State Committees on COVID-19 and other relevant health authorities should be observed by election officials and all stakeholders.

“The Commission shall work with the PTF and health authorities to have in place a system of voluntary COVID-19 testing for INEC staff before and after deploying for elections,” he said.

The INEC chairman added that the commission shall work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and health authorities in the states having elections to develop a protocol for dealing with persons who show symptoms of COVID-19 at election venues.

“Where an election official, a voter or any other person present at an election venue shows symptoms of COVID-19:

“The prevailing protocol shall be observed; the person must be isolated from other persons at the venue; the attention of the security personnel should be drawn;

“The dedicated number for COVID – 19 emergencies shall be called; and, if the affected person is an election official, the Commission must be notified through the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC),” Yakubu stated.

Edited Kamal Tayo Oropo/Wale Ojetimi

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INEC to redesign polling units to comply with COVID-19 regulations 

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Amidst COVID-19, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that Polling Units shall be redesigned by the Commission to ensure substantial compliance with the COVID-19 protocols established by health authorities.

INEC noted that, among other things, the redesign would emphasise social distancing, general hygienic conduct and enforcement of COVID-19 prevention protocols.

The commission disclosed this in a ‘Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic’ signed by INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, released on Monday.

The INEC chairman noted that on election day, the use of face masks shall be mandatory at Polling Units (PUs) and all election locations, stating that any voter without a face mask shall be turned away from the Polling Unit.

“However, the Assistant Presiding Officer (APO) II in checking the Register of Voters may request removal of mask to prevent voter impersonation.

“There shall be a two-tier queuing system at the Polling Unit – one outside and the other in the voting area. Voters will be brought into the voting area periodically to prevent overcrowding.

“Tags and twines may be used to ensure crowd control and maintenance of

social distance.

“In order to accommodate additional activities in setting up the PU due to COVID-19, polls shall now commence

at 8.30 am and close at 2.30 pm.

“Anybody on the outer queue by 2.30 pm shall be allowed to vote, in line with

the Commission’s regulations.

“Prior to the commencement of polls, the Presiding Officer or Assistant Presiding Officer (VP) shall ensure that the contents of the Voter Code of Conduct (VCC) are read out loudly to voters and that the VCC Poster is pasted at the polling unit,” Yakubu said.

He stated that there should be periodic disinfection of chairs, tables and work areas, as well as adequate ventilation at the Polling Units.

“The Smart Card Readers (SCR) shall be cleaned with the prescribed disinfectant after each voter’s fingerprint is read.

“Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other safety materials shall be provided for polling staff,” he said.

Yakubu added that at the close of polls, polling unit staff should ensure that materials were properly disinfected, carefully packaged and that used PPE were hygienically packaged or disposed of.

He explained that for purposes of collation of results after election the Commission would cluster Registration Area (RA) collation centres where feasible, in order to reduce exposure of people to the risk of COVID-19, speed up collation and reduce costs.

“In order to prevent overcrowding during collation, only one polling agent of a party on the ballot (or the candidate in person) for the election(s) shall be allowed into the collation hall,” he said.

On post-election activities, Yakubu stated that for reverse logistics, election staff must ensure that used, but reusable PPEs, were carefully packaged and sent to designated collection points.

“All post-election debriefings shall preferably be done electronically. Where face-to-face debriefings take place, the protocols for COVID-19 prevention shall be followed,” he said.

For pre-election activities, Yakubu stated that INEC should immediately embark on review of regulations, guidelines and manuals for elections in the light of changes to the electoral process that are imminent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Develop a Voter Code of Conduct (VCC) document detailing how voters are expected to act and conduct themselves at the polling units in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Review all Elections Information Kits to include COVID-19 information.

“Expand the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) at all levels to include NCDC (or other requisite health bodies) and National Orientation Agency (NOA) on a temporary basis,” he said.

The INEC chairman mandated INEC state offices to work with local health authorities to do a health assessment of upcoming elections immediately.

“Conduct immediate discussion with  state governments where elections are to hold concerning lockdowns, curfews, etc, and how they might affect elections.

“Ensure that Pre-Election Preparation (PEP) activities shall be conducted online preferably.

“Where face-to-face activities become necessary, the protocols for COVID-19 prevention should be followed.

“Pilot changes to the electoral process in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic in a by-election prior to the Edo and Ondo governorship elections in order to learn lessons where necessary,” he said.

Yakubu explained that INEC has also made provision for handling and delivery of election materials.

One of the provisions, according to him, was to reduce the number of contacts during distribution.

He said when Non-sensitive Materials were procured, they would be delivered directly by vendors to States or purchased by States requiring the materials and packaged according to the quantity required by Registration Area.

“This will reduce the level and number of contacts during distribution,” he said.

He said that production of Sensitive Materials shall commence early to give adequate time for proper packaging and delivery.

Yakubu added that to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the commission should reduce to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and by-elections.

“The rule shall be that only shortfalls requested by the states are filled from outside the state. As much as possible, all election staff will be sourced in-state,” the INEC chairman said.

He added that in the establishment of voting points, in order to reduce the number of points in a Polling Unit to be monitored and controlled for COVID-19 compliance, the threshold for Voting Points shall be increased from 500/750 to 1,000/1,250.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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