Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has released a policy guide for the conduct of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections scheduled for September and October respectively.
- The guide contains safety measures and operational changes informed by the recommendations of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Some of the key changes INEC will be making in both elections include the creation of additional voting points to decongest waiting queues and provide room for compliance with social distancing rule. This is in addition to a planned redesign of the layout of polling units.
- Provision of infrared thermometers at all collation centers.
- Mandatory wearing of face masks at election polling units and other locations. Voters not wearing one will be turned back.
- Disinfection of smart card readers after each voter’s fingerprint is read.
- Conduct and monitoring of accreditations, submission of forms, and campaign financing using electronic tools and platforms.
One troubling thing: INEC has prescribed a reduction in the number of accredited observer groups and field observers to prevent crowding. The health benefits of this move are clear but it may have impact on the integrity of the hotly contested polls.
Bottom line: The success of INEC’s guidelines will depend on money.
- Recruitment of extra ad-hoc staff to man new voting points, procurement of personal protective equipment for staff and other safety items, and production of new informational materials, as well as COVID-19 sensitization campaigns, are all additional lines of cost guaranteed to raise the budget.
- The previous general election in 2019 was marred by poor funding of the electoral body, among other things. Given Nigeria’s poor revenue state and fiscal problems, getting extra funds to finance the costly off-cycle elections may prove problematic.
Of note: INEC will also be engaging state governments to examine ways that curfews and lockdowns, where they are implemented, could affect the organization of elections. In Ondo and Edo States, it will likely lead to political problems considering the incumbent governors are both active players in the election and may face accusations of skewing things in their favor using state powers.
- In Edo State, the members of the ruling All Progressives Congress are bickering amongst themselves over the party’s adopted mode of conducting its internal primary election, with a faction of the party accusing the state governor of politicizing the COVID-19 situation of the state to gain an unfair advantage.