Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given indication that it might adjust the timetable and schedule for Edo and Ondo states governorship elections due to threats and challenges posed by COVID-19 to the election.
The commission said the lockdown of most of states and the closure of boundaries has impacted on its preparations for the polls.
Responding to inquiry from Daily Sun in Abuja, National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, said INEC had informed political parties, civil society groups and organisations that most of the nomination and accreditation exercises would be done electronically.
He said COVID-19 had forced the commission and other establishments to do things differently and that INEC would continue to prepare for both elections within the existing timetable, but reserved the right to adjust the timetable within the constitutionally permissible window given the current challenges and realities of COVID-19.
“The country is engaged in existential war and this war threatens the sovereign right of the Nigerian people to vote. Only living human beings approach the polling units for accreditation and voting. On February 6, 2020, INEC released an adjustable timetable and schedule of activities for the conduct of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections. By the said timetable, the Edo governorship election will take place on September 19, 2020 and that of Ondo State on October 10, 2020.
“As at February 6, 2020 when the Commission released the timetable for both elections, the impact, magnitude and far reaching implications of the COVID-19 pandemic had not really manifested. By section 178(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) and section 25(7) & (8) of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) an election to the office of governor of a State shall be held on a date not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of the office.
“Constitutionally, the tenure of the governor of Edo State expires on November 11, 2020 and that of Ondo State on February 23, 2021. By necessary constitutional implication, the earliest date for election into the office of governor of Edo, shall be June 15, and the latest date for election shall be October 13, 2020. In the same vein, the earliest date for the election into the office of Governor of Ondo shall be September 27, 2020 and the latest date shall be January 25, 2021.
“The implication of the constitutional provision is that the Commission can adjust the electoral timetable and schedule of activities for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections within the constitutionally permissible window. In other words, the Commission is permitted to rework the timetable but the Edo governorship election must be held and results declared before October 13, 2020 while that of Ono State must be held and results declared before January 25, 2021. The Commission is also retooling its processes and procedures given the reality of social and physical distancing, the wearing of face masks and avoidance of large gatherings.”