Covid-19 Can’t Hinder Democracy in Nigeria, Says INEC

Mahmood Yakubu
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu
  • Suspends discussions with National Assembly on Electoral Reforms

By Chuks Okocha

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu reiterated the resolution of the commission to conduct elections in the country, declaring that the coronavirus pandemic will not stop the growth of democracy in Nigeria.

In INEC first virtual teleconference with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), the commission’s chairman said, “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”.

Consequently, the INEC chairman said that 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.

Prof. Yakubu told the RECs that already, some of the registered political parties had notified the commission of the dates for their party primaries leading to the nomination of their candidates for the two elections.

He listed other elections that would take place within the period of the pandemic.
Accordingly, he said, “In addition to the two Governorship elections, the Commission is also making preparations to conduct nine legislative bye-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”, Prof Yakubu stated. .

According to him, the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections as well as the five Senatorial and four State Assembly bye-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”, he explained .

The INEC chairman said that the commission was 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, he said that the Commission has directed the RECs for the nine States where the bye-elections will hold to begin preparations in earnest.

In view of this, Prof Yakubu said, “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.

“At this meeting, we will receive the input of our RECs to the new policy with particular reference to its implementation in the areas of recruitment and training of ad hoc staff, logistics for the deployment of personnel and materials, the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates, the submission of the names of polling agents by political parties, the accreditation of observers and the media, the security of the electoral process, polling unit management and the collation and declaration of results,” he stated. .

The INEC chairman told the RECs st the virtual meeting, that 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.

He reiterated the efforts and support of INEC in combating the pandemic, saying, ” Our country’s national effort to combat the pandemic is coordinated by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on whose request the Commission has made available a number of vehicles from our fleet to support the emergency response. The majority of these assets were deployed to Lagos, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which have so far recorded the highest number of reported cases in the country.

He lamented how the pandemic has affected the work of the commission, declaring, “For instance, further engagement with the National Assembly and stakeholders on electoral reform as well as the conduct of some off-season elections had to be suspended because of the global health emergency.”

From the INEC data released, in Edo State there are 2210534 registered voters across the 18 local governments of the state and 20974 staff to be deployed during the election. Also, the commission said that there were 192 registration areas and 2627 polling units

In Ondo State, INEC said that there were 1822346 registered voters with 17913 staff to be deployed across the 18 local governments of the state. INEC slso said that there were 203 Registration areas and 3009 pulling units in the state.