The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed fears over the possibility of crises affecting party primaries ahead of the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10 2020 respectively.
The commission called on security agencies to act proactively to contain the threat, while advocating a “review of the security architecture,” in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. It urged them to “come up with clear guidelines as well as supplementary code of conduct for security personnel on election duty.”
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, expressed these observations in Abuja on Friday during the first virtual consultative meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security.
He also said it was necessary for ICCES to evolve effective ways of securing and protecting the integrity of the electoral process as the COVID-19 pandemic would impact on the planning and deployment strategy for the conduct of elections generally.
The virtual meeting was also joined by the Resident Electoral Commissioners and Commissioners of Police for Edo and Ondo states.
Yakubu said, “INEC’s policy on conducting elections under the current global pandemic is anchored on the guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force based on the advisory by health authorities.
“The guidelines provide for measures to protect the electoral process and the people involved, ranging from the election officials, observers, media and, above all, voters.
“Doing so will also increase public confidence and consequently enhance the credibility of the electoral process. To do so effectively, there is a need to review the security architecture in the light of the global pandemic and come up with clear guidelines as well as supplementary code of conduct for security personnel on election duty.
“We should, as a matter of urgency, come up with a policy and code of conduct for security personnel in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to him, early engagement with political parties and aspirants is necessary to create the atmosphere for peaceful primaries and subsequently peaceful elections.
He said, “The primaries for the nomination of candidates for the Edo governorship election have commenced. As of yesterday (Thursday), 15 out of the 18 registered political parties have invited the commission to monitor their primaries.
“The process for Ondo State is scheduled for July 2 – 5, 2020. As you are aware, the conduct of primaries by political parties tends to be very acrimonious. The acrimony is carried forward into the electioneering and Election Day activities. Already, there are warning signals.
“The security agencies need to act proactively. An early engagement with political parties and aspirants is necessary to create the atmosphere for peaceful primaries and consequently peaceful elections.”
The INEC chairman reassured that the commission would continue to deepen the use of technology in the management of the electoral process in Nigeria, including ICCES meetings and other engagements with security agencies.
He said, “In the next few months, the commission will hold two major elections. The end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19, 2020 and October 10, 2020 respectively. The commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the two elections early this year.
“At that time, no one anticipated that our preparations for the elections would be done in the middle of a global health emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the normal way of doing things, including the conduct of elections. For this reason, the commission released a new policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In addition to the two governorship elections, vacancies have occurred in 10 national and state constituencies in eight states across the country. The commission is also making preparations for the consequential bye-elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Also, a five-man committee set up by the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party screened the party’s governorship aspirants in the state on Friday.
The committee, headed by a member of the House of Representatives, Kingsley Chinda, met at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja.
Other members of the committee are Oladimeji Fabiyi, Senator Joy Emordi, Aishat Hasindu and Boyele Debekeme.
Two out of the three aspirants who obtained and submitted their expressions of interest and nomination forms were at the venue of the screening while the third aspirant was part of the session virtually.
The two aspirants physically present were Gideon Ikhine and Ogbeide Ihama, while Kenneth Imansuangbon was screened virtually.
Earlier, Chinda, who addressed journalists shortly before the exercise behind closed-doors, said the PDP was “determined to select the best candidate to regain control of Edo State”.
He assured party members as well as the aspirants that the committee would be strict but fair to all to ensure the emergence of the best candidate.
Meanwhile, the Screening Appeal Panel of the party is expected to meet on Monday to review the report of the screening committee.
The appeal panel, which has 13 members, is headed by Senator James Manager.