Posted by News Express | 16 September 2020 | 480 times
The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) said it has put in place measures to organize free, fair, credible and safe elections in the context of COVID-19.
While briefing the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said in order to protect voters, officials and other stakeholders, the Commission identified eight protective measures drawing from the national policy. This, he said, ranges from the mandatory use of face masks, hand sanitizers, use of methylated spirit and cotton wool to clean the Smart Card Readers after the fingerprint of each voter is read.
According to him, others include the rules of physical distancing, the use of infrared thermometers and procedures for handling voters and election officials showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Prof. Yakubu said: “We have shared it (COVID-19 procedures) widely, but we have also come with sufficient copies for all members of the PTF and all persons present in this hall, so there will be a take away at the end of this briefing.
“Drawing from the broad policies, the Commission developed a 10-point Voters’ Code of Conduct, targeted specifically at the voter, giving details of the dos and don’ts at polling units on Election Day.
“For instance, it is mandatory for every voter to wear the face mask or face covering without which the voter will not be allowed to vote. We need to emphasize that we are not asking for surgical face masks, but face covering will be sufficient for the voter to be accredited and to vote.
“Also, voters are required to maintain physical distancing. The Commission introduced two queues: one outside the polling area and the other inside the polling area. Within the inner queue, voters must maintain the mandatory two metres or six feet distance from each other. And we clearly marked this in one of the bye-elections we conducted last month.
“Furthermore, voters must avoid touching surfaces or leaning on walls at polling units. We also have clear protocols for dealing with voters who show symptoms such as high temperature, cough, sneezing, etc. In this case, they must obey all directions by officials to stop other voters from getting infected. Then, there is also the procedure for evacuation in the event of emergency. In doing so, we shall collaborate with health officials.
“In Edo State for instance, we are working with the state response team. We were in Edo a couple of weeks ago, we had a meeting with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, who has made contact details of their officials in Benin City and in all the Local Government Areas available to us and we can immediately contact them on Election Day for emergency response and they have all been put on alert.
“For the purpose of voter education, we have produced a 10-point Voters’ Code of Conduct. And this has been produced by way of a poster for voter education, which has already been mass produced with support from development partners and delivered to the states where we have elections – Edo, Ondo and other states.”
The INEC Chairman also revealed that the Commission has bye-elections in 11 states across 15 constituencies on October 31.
He said that three weeks after the Edo and Ondo elections, INEC would deploy to 11 states of the federation for elections in 15 constituencies.
His words: “We have also produced a handbill based on the Voter Code of Conduct, not only for voter education but also for the training of our officials on Election Duty. It’s the same poster, but it comes in a very handy form.
“For inclusivity, we have produced our policy in Braille for visually impaired voters. The pages appear blank, but the visually impaired can read the Braille guide. The international policy for conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is also being produced in Braille for the benefit of voters who can’t see and therefore can’t read our flyers and our posters. We have also translated the 10-point Voters’ Code of Conduct into Braille.
“INEC is working with the security agencies under the auspices of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). The Commission has produced and revised the Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement for Security Personnel on Election Duty, and that also includes COVID-19 guidelines. It is signed by the INEC chairman and the National Security Adviser as co-chairman of ICCES. It is also signed by the Inspector General of Police as head of the lead agency for election security and this document is available on the INEC website.
“It is also available on the Police website, the website of the Office of the National Security Adviser and the Department of State Services.”
Prof. Yakubu however pointed out that, “all these steps are in the realm of planning. We have planned well. The true test of the plan is the actual implementation. We are aware that we have two major elections in Edo and Ondo for the election of Governors as well as several by-elections.”
To ensure proper implementation of the policy, Mamoud said, the Commission decided to do a test run in a bye-election in the Nasarawa Central State Constituency in Nasarawa State on August 8, 2020. This is a small constituency made up of 44 polling units and 36 voting points, making a total of 80 polling points.
“All the protocols enumerated in our policy were practically implemented and the overall result is very encouraging. We are going into Edo this week assured that we have test run our preparations for voting under the COVID-19 pandemic,” while commending the support from the PTF for its support to the Commission.
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