Elections in Nigeria starting from 2021 will use electronic voting (e-voting), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said.
INEC revealed this Monday in a 17-page “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic”, signed by the INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
It however noted that it will not use the e-voting for the coming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
On how it will operate in the wake of COVID-19, INEC said face masks would be made compulsory for voters, electoral officials and everyone else at all election locations during the upcoming elections in Edo and Ondo.
Also, social distancing would be observed as polling unit areas will be redesigned to ensure substantial compliance with established protocols.
“In order to accommodate additional activities in setting up the PU due to COVID-19, polls shall now commence at 8.30 am and close at 2.30 pm.
“Personal protective equipment and other safety materials shall be provided for polling staff,” the commission said.
Infrared thermometers would be used at the various collation centres, alcohol-based hand sanitizers at the polling units for election officials; while methylated spirit and cotton wool would be provided for the disinfection of the smart card readers after the fingerprint of each voter is read.
The commission added that it would regularly clean up the biometric register of voters, “while continuous voter registration is suspended for the time being to prevent the health risks associated with it in the context of COVID-19.
“We are developing a new election budget template to reflect the likely impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the funding profile of electoral activities,” it said.
The commission said it suspended Continuous Voter Registration because of COVID-19 and the health risk it poses for voters, stakeholders and staff.
On transportation, the commission said election staff would comply with COVID-19 containment protocols, and that there shall be a reduction in the number of passengers per vehicle on election day from 14 to seven for buses, and from 12 to six for boats. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
INEC also said that its “state offices shall conduct a thorough assessment of RACs to determine their suitability for elections, adding that where there is insufficient space in a RAC and no suitable alternative facility is available for a Super RAC option, canopies may be deployed outdoors to increase the available area for use.
“In the establishment of voting points, in order to reduce the number of points in a polling unit to be monitored and controlled for COVID-19 compliance, the threshold for voting points shall be increased from 500/750 to 1,000/1,250.”
The commission said it would create e-platforms in accreditation of observer groups and deployment of their field observers, submission of nomination forms by political parties for candidates, tracking and reporting of campaigns and campaign finance by/for candidates and political parties.
According to the new policy, “other activities to be done online include: submission of party agents lists by political parties, engagement with stakeholders -consultative meeting with political party leaders and briefing of observers.”
On briefing and debriefing of election observers, INEC said it would combine physical and online briefings for observers.
It said: “However, whenever the former is adopted, all the protocols for COVID-19 prevention shall be strictly followed.”
It said it would reassess existing security threats across the states and the implications of COVID-19, develop locally focused plans for election security deployments.
It added that it would engage with relevant authorities, including the National Assembly, to designate election as an essential service due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This, the commission, said would enable it function effectively in times of national emergency.
Yakubu advised political parties to develop appropriate guidelines and regulations for the conduct of party primaries that take into account the COVID-19 prevention protocols, saying where such guidelines and regulations are in conflict with the constitutions of political parties and the commissions’ regulations and guidelines for the conduct of party primaries, it would draw the attention of the political party to the discrepancies.
He said the policy would apply to all elections and electoral activities of the commission during the COVID-19 pandemic.