By Anayo Ezugwu
FOLLOWING the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said that it is embarking on the review of its regulations, guidelines and manuals for the upcoming elections in the country. The commission said it was developing a Voter Code of Conduct, VCC, document detailing how voters are expected to act and conduct themselves at the polling units.
In a policy document titled “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the commission said it would review all election information kits to include COVID-19 information. The document signed by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, chairman, INEC, stated that the commission was expanding the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, ICCES, at all levels to include the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, (or other requisite health bodies) and NOA on a temporary basis.
According to the document, the commission has mandated its state offices to work with local health authorities to do a health assessment of the upcoming elections immediately and mainstream COVID-19 in its election risk mapping tools like the Election Risk Management, ERM, and Election Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool, EVMAT.
“Conduct an 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 bye-election prior to the Edo and Ondo governorship elections in order to learn lessons where necessary. The commission shall conduct an immediate evaluation of its key election facilities to ensure that they are fit-for-purpose, including Polling Units, Registration Area Centres, and Collation Centres.
“These facilities will be reorganized to make them more optimal for health and cost considerations. In order to support improved planning and deployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, two key spatial and mapping activities shall be implemented namely, geo-referencing of RAC locations and mapping of COVID-19 prevalence. In handling and delivery of election materials,” it said.
The document stated that the commission is working to reduce the number of contacts during distribution. It said when non-sensitive materials are procured, they will be delivered directly by vendors to states or purchased by states requiring the materials and packaged according to quantity required by registration area.
“This will reduce the level and number of contacts during distribution. Ballot papers and result sheets (Sensitive Materials) shall be packaged to registration areas (RAs). Production of sensitive materials shall commence early to give adequate time for proper packaging and delivery. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to adversely affect staffing for elections.
“Consequently, the commission will engage immediately with NYSC and INEC state offices to evolve modalities for corps members to serve as ad hoc staff in elections during the pandemic. The commission’s state offices will commence identification of alternative sources of ad hoc staff in line with the commission’s policy, in case there are shortfalls. The Commission will ensure the use of electronic and non-contact means to recruit ad hoc staff by deploying its INECPres portal, as well as in notifying ad hoc staff of invitations and postings (for example, use of SMS) to prevent large gatherings at INEC offices during staff deployment.”
To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the commission said it would reduce to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and bye elections. It noted that 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.
“Transportation of election staff shall comply with COVID-19 containment protocols. Consequently, there shall be a reduction in the number of passengers per vehicle on Election Day from 14 to seven (7) for buses, and from 12 to six (6) for boats. Motorcycles and tricycles must be used sparingly with one passenger per motorcycle and two per tricycle.
“All passengers and drivers must wear face masks and it shall be mandatory and the responsibility of vehicle owners to provide hand sanitizers for occupants of their vehicles,” it said.
– May 26, 2020 @ 13:09 GMT |