The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday said it has trained its presiding officers for the Edo State governorship election on how to guarantee physical distancing among voters at the polling units.
Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, disclosed this at the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja.
Okoye said that the peculiar training was one of the lessons INEC learnt from its “policy on the conduct of election under COVID-19 pandemic’’ in the Nasarawa Central by-election.
He said that in Nasarawa by-election the commission provide infrared thermometers for all the polling units and insisted that every voter at the polling unit on election day must wear a face mask or face covering.
“We insisted that there must also be physical distancing in relations to the election and we also provided all the personal protective equipment for all the ad hoc staff for that particular election.
“So, we did the test-run and then all the voters came with their face masks or face covering.
“There was water and soap for washing of hands, then there was also a two metre distance at the polling unit. It was observed.
“But in some of the polling units, we noticed that people found it difficult to observe the issue of physical distancing.
“So, that was one of the lessons we learnt from the Nassarawa state central constituency election.
“Based on that particular lesson, we have further trained our presiding officers on how to guarantee physical distancing at the level of the polling units.’’
Okoye said that the commission would also deployed its innovations including “Election Result Viewing Portal’’ that were tested in Nasarawa, for purposes of ensuring transparency in elections.
He said while the commission would still use it “Z-Pad’’ to upload election results on its dedicated website, it has dropped the use as a secondary authentication mechanism to support the smart card readers.
“We had a few challenges with the Z-pad in terms of aligning it with a smart card reader.
“So, based on that, we found that it is not robust enough for us to deploy to a contentious election, like the Edo governorship election. So, we dropped it in order for us to do a further work on it.’’
Okoye also explained why the commission have to go on with Edo and Ondo governorship elections, in spite of the COVID -19 pandemic.
He said that because of the nature of the pandemic, over 70 countries, including advanced countries, postponed their elections, but INEC could not because of Nigeria peculiar constitutional circumstances.
“Section 178 subsection 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prescribes a window within which what we call end of tenure elections must be conducted.
Based on that constitutional provision, we must conduct the Edo governorship election on or before October 13, 2020 and we must conduct the Ondo governorship election on or before January 15, 2021.
“So, based on that, we had no choice than to fix these elections. If we conduct the Edo election on Oct. 14 that means we have not conducted any election.
“Whatever we do will be null and void because, constitutionally speaking, when lawmakers design a constitution, and impute dates within the constitutional framework.
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“The implication is that that particular date is unmovable, it cannot be changed, it cannot be adjusted, and it cannot in any way be tempered with.’’