Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has hinted that it might be constrained to adjust the timetable and schedule of activities of the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections due to the crippling challenges Coronavius pandemic posed on the country.
The commission also admitted that with the lockdown of most of the states in Nigeria and the closure of boundaries, the pandemic had impacted and will definitely continue to impact on its preparations and activities for the conduct of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
Responding to the inquiry from Daily Sun in Abuja, National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, informed the political parties, civil society groups and organizations that most of the nominations and accreditations shall be done online given the challenges of the deadly virus.
While insisting that post COVID-19 has forced the commission and every other sector to do things differently, he said that INEC will rely on the constitutional empowerment to adjust the electoral timetable and schedule of activities for the two governorship elections within constitutionally permissible window.
“On February 6, 2020, INEC released an adjustable timetable and schedule of activities for the conduct of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections. By the said timetable, the Edo governorship election will take place on September 19, 2020 and that of Ondo State on October 10, 2020.
“As at February 6, 2020 when the Commission released the timetable for both elections, the impact, magnitude and far reaching implications of the COVID-19 pandemic had not really manifested. By section 178(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) and section 25(7) & (8) of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) an election to the office of governor of a State shall be held on a date not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of the office.
“Constitutionally, the tenure of the governor of Edo State expires on November 11, 2020 and that of Ondo State expires on February 23, 2021. By necessary constitutional implication, the earliest date for election into the office of governor of Edo, shall be June 15, 2020 and the latest date for the election shall be October 13, 2020. In the same vein, the earliest date for the election into the office of governor, Ondo shall be September 27, 2020 and the latest date shall be January 25, 2021.
“The implication of the constitutional provision is that the Commission can adjust the electoral timetable and schedule of activities for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections within the constitutionally permissible window. In other words, the Commission is permitted to rework the timetable but the Edo governorship election must be held and results declared before October 13, 2020 while that of Ono State must be held and results declared before January 25, 2021,” he argued.
Reacting further, Okoye noted: “The Commission will therefore continue to prepare for both elections within the existing timetable but reserves the right to adjust the timetable within the constitutionally permissible window given the current challenges and realities of COVID-19.
“With the lockdown of most of the states of the federation and the closure of state boundaries, the pandemic has impacted and will definitely continue to impact on the preparations and activities of the Commission for the conduct of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
“The country is engaged in existential war and this war threatens the sovereign right of the Nigerian people to vote. Only living human beings approach the polling units for accreditation and voting. Therefore, we need national unity and solidarity to defeat this invisible enemy of humanity,” he quipped.
The National Commissioner further revealed that: “Political parties, civil society groups and organizations must bear in mind that given the challenges of this period, most of the nominations and accreditations shall be done online. The post COVID-19 Nigeria and the COVID-19 Nigeria will do things differently.
“The Commission is also retooling its processes and procedures given the reality of social and physical distancing, the wearing of face masks and avoidance of large gatherings. All of them have implications on the processes and procedures of the Commission and will affect in a fundamental way our transport and deployment arrangements, the configuration of the polling units and resources needed for the conduct of elections,” he emphasised.