It is no news that the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission (CROSIEC) has slated Saturday, May 30th, 2020 for Council Polls across the state after suspension of the exercise as a result of the novel COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.
Recall that CROSIEC had earlier fixed March 28, 2020 for local government elections but suspended the exercise barely 72 hours to commencement of the polls when it became expedient to do so in adherence to the social distancing protocols in the early days of the pandemic that caught the world unawares.
The CROSIEC decision to suspend elections at the time was solely taken for obvious preventive reasons of the coronavirus which may have caused the state more harm since there were no known causative factors nor early preventive solutions to the plague and now the decision is reversed following improvement as a result of the application of personal hygiene and other clinical protocols recommended by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and other relevant health administrators.
According to section 39 of the CROSIEC Law 2004, a minimum of 7 days issuance of notice must be given before conduct of local government elections. CROSIEC has not only satisfied that criteria by publishing the notice on the 22nd of May, 2020, it has satisfied other factors leading to conduct of a credible exercise.
It is in this light that it has become allowable to continue with the suspended polls to elect leaders to the local government councils while observing extant social distancing rules.
From precedence, Cross River State has been a leading example in terms of policy formulation and implementation at the local government system in the country and the time has come to consolidate the gains and join the league of states with democratically elected council leaders in the country.
We can only envisage a perfect timing of an exercise involving more than one competing parties at the third tier of government, as there is no “best time” to conduct elections anywhere that have gone unchallenged.
A chat with Barr Joe Nandi-Ekom, Head, Media & Publicity, CROSIEC, yesterday at his office reveals adhoc staff are been trained on critical tips for handling sensitive election materials, marking guides for voters, sequence arrangements, detection of voter fraud in line with modern best practices, provision of alcohol based hand sanitizers at all voting points amongst others. This is an indication that the electoral umpire in the state is ready to deliver free, fair and credible elections come 30th May across the 18 council areas of the State.
Cross Riverians who are 18 years and above are encouraged to come out en-masse with their voter’s card to exercise their civic responsibilities in choosing their leaders at the ward and local government levels to pilot affairs for the next 3 years at the instance of a 3-year tenure by May 2023.
©Eugene Upah is the Snr. Special Assistant, Public Communications, Cross River State.