Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said yesterday that many eligible voters will be disenfranchised in the forthcoming election owing to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Commission’s Head of Voters Education and Publicity in Edo State, Mr Timidi Wariowei, disclosed this in Benin City at a Civil Society Organization Roundtable on the 2020 Governorship Election in Edo.
Wariowei who spoke on “Governorship Election in Edo: Issues at Stake and their Implications on the Conduct of Credible Election”, in the programme organized by Centre for Democracy and Development, however said INEC was ready for the conduct of the governorship poll.
He attributed the reason why some eligible voters would be disenfranchised to the inability of the INEC to carry out the continuous voters’ registration exercise as well as the distribution of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) ahead of the election.
He stressed that preparation had begun for the election while issue of fund was never the problem, but the need to protect the people against the pandemic was placed above other interests.
“The continuous voters registration would have taken care of those that have attained the age of 18 years after the last exercise and those that were unable to register for one reason or the other during the exercise. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t allow us to also carry out distribution of the PVCs. We do not want to be accused unnecessarily or seen to be undermining the people, but for their own protection,” he said.
Wariowei, however, said in spite of of these challenges, election must be conducted in the state to avoid constitutional crisis.
He said the poll would be conducted in a away to avoid mass contact of the disease.
“NCDC guidelines have been mainstreamed into the guidelines provided by the commission for the conduct of the governorship election. Every voter at the polling units must wear a face mask, if you don’t have face mask, you must at least have something to cover your nose and mouth to be allowed to vote.
“There must also be a distance of 2 meter or 6 feet between each voter on queue at the polling units. We will also be providing alcohol based disinfectants to be used to disinfect the card reader after every accreditation during the poll”, he said.
While disclosing that 14 political parties met the deadline for the submission of their candidates, he said some trainings have since commenced for some officers that would participate in the conduct of the election.
He said training for Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs) and Collation Officers (COs) would be the last to be done a week before the election.
Another participant at the event, Mr Asunogie Nurudeen, of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, tasked INEC to ensure that a credible, free and fair poll is conducted in Edo State.