The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has issued new electoral guidelines for political parties and security agencies in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to the electoral umpire, the guidelines, recently published on its website, are aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 at political rallies and elections while maintaining law and order before, during and after elections.
With the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections just months away, INEC said the guidelines for campaigns have been devised to conform with social distancing rules, as well as non-pharmaceutical interventions such as the use of face masks and hand cleaning sanitisation.
One of the regulations in the new guidelines is that all political parties must give INEC a seven-day notice before holding any political rally.
Also, political parties have been told to be creative and dynamic with their campaigns and rallies by adopting more of the traditional and social media to reach out to the electorate in order to minimise the level of contact associated with rallies.
Speaking on the new regulations, Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, said Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the commission’s Chairman, had on 9 June issued supplementary regulations and guidelines for the conduct of elections in the country.
Okoye explained that the guidelines are in line with the commission’s policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All the registered political parties are aware of the global pandemic and how it has affected the way we live and organise and we expect political parties to factor the health and safety of Nigerians into their guidelines for campaigns and rallies,” Okoye told the Punch.
“We expect political parties to be creative, innovative and dynamic in their rallies and campaigns. It is the responsibility of political parties to design campaign strategies in line with the regulations and protocols issued by health authorities.”
Okoye also disclosed that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had nominated one of its senior official who would be part of the inter-agency consultative committee on election security chaired by the INEC chairman and Babagana Munguno, the National Security Adviser.
In the same vein, INEC has issued guidelines for security operatives deployed for the conduct of elections.
The guidelines, issued in conjunction with the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), contain the code of conduct and rules of engagement on how security agents will operate while on election duty.
Some of the new directives include the prohibition of firearms in polling units and at campaign rally venues, use of force only when necessary, arresting with caution, shooting a suspect only when ordered to do so or when a life is in danger as well as obedience to all COVID-19 prevention protocol.
The new guideline also states that except for personnel deployed on covert operations, all personnel on electoral assignment will ensure a neat turn-out in their prescribed uniform and name tags, which must be identifiable to the public.
Personnel on covert operations will ensure they turn out in clean outfits, having strict regard for the authorised identification
card. Officers engaged in traffic control will ensure that white gloves and arm bands are worn.