The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it cannot force voters to abide by COVID-19 health rules in the ongoing polls in Edo State.
It was reacting to reports of voters flouting the COVID-19 protocols at the governorship election.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how election officials and voters in the ongoing election, had largely ignored the warnings by both the health agencies and the election umpire.
In a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, on Saturday, the INEC’s spokesperson, Festus Okoye, said INEC cannot force people to comply with precautionary measures ”after several warnings it had issued”.
He added that the conduct of an election ”is a collective responsibility and as such, people should act for their safety by observing physical distancing and face mask wearing protocols”.
“The commission does not have its own police force. The conduct of an election is a collective responsibility. People are to take responsibility for their own safety.
“We have made it very clear to the people through the social media, the regular media and our various platforms to sensitise them about observing social distancing,” Mr Okoye said.
The election is the first election the umpire is handling since the pandemic erupted. There are concerns that people’s non-compliance with health protocols may result in a widespread transmission of the virus that has caused more than 1,000 deaths in the country.
Meanwhile, Mr Okoye said infrared thermometers and hand sanitisers were provided at the Registration Area Collation Centres, the Local Government Area Collation Centres, and the State Collation Centres.
He added that the commission issued a ‘no-face mask, no voting’ directive and the two-metres physical distancing measure in the election process.
“We do not want to create a situation where there will be confusion at the polling units just because people are hesitating to observe social distancing.
“We have fully applied moral-suasion and we cannot use force to insist that they must observe social distancing. These are lessons all of us are learning,” he said.