By Emma Okereh
As political rallies and campaigns take the centre stage in Edo and Ondo States triggering mass gathering of people in the covid-19 era, a group, Center for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to ensure that covid-19 protocols are enforced.
Rising from a zoom meeting with stakeholders, it expressed worry at the violation of the protocols coupled with increased threat of violence and other anti behaviours that are inimical to democracy. In a statement signed by its executive director, Faith Nwadishi and made available to The Authority, identified voter apathy, hate speech, disregard to covid-19 protocol, political party financing among others as part of the malaise that are likely to affect the two elections. It therefore, recommended among other things that INEC in collaboration with NCDC and health agencies ensure adequate deployment of health personnel at all polling units and voting areas. The statement reads:
“Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) as an accredited Domestic Observer Group for both elections and in tune with our mandate as a watchdog of the society organised two zoom meetings for stakeholders in Edo on May 27 and Ondo State on the 11th August 2020 respectively. The stakeholders were made up of representatives from the NOA, INEC, IPAC , CSOs, PWDs and Faith-Based Organisations.
“The meeting deliberated on the INEC guidelines as a prominent tool for the elections and other concerns. The meeting recognised the fact that the election is holding amid the precarious health situation in Nigeria and the World over.
“Participants commended INEC on the innovations and proactiveness in preparing for the elections. Worthy of note was an announcement by INEC to allow citizens access to results on Form EC8A containing results from polling units. Among the concerns raised by the stakeholders after appraising the political situation and readiness by the citizens to participate in a peaceful, credible election in Edo on September 19th and Ondo on October 10th includes;
Rising hate speech and violence perpetrated by the political class,
the disregard to COVID- 19 protocols as stipulated in the INEC guideline for the 2020 Edo and Ondo States Governorship Elections, fear of voter apathy towards the election due to health concerns arising due to the Covid-19 pandemic,
Political party financing and vote trading, the care for people with disability, pregnant women and the elderly to have access to vote,
adequate deployment of health personnel to polling units and other voting areas,
lack of adequate enlightenment and education to the citizens on the electoral process,the role of security agencies and the flouting of NCDC directives on gatherings by the political parties at primaries and other campaign gathering.
It recommended that INEC should call political parties to order and ensure that campaigns are conducted following strictly the Covid-19 Protocols as issued by NCDC and the INEC guideline for the governorship election. Campaigns should be carried out responsibly and working with relevant health authorities to reduce the spread of the pandemic by activating the social distancing strategy and the wearing of face masks.
That INEC, NCDC, Civil Society, Political parties and the National Orientation Agency should intensify Voter education and enlightenment to allay the fears of the public especially on the fear of contracting the COVID virus while coming out to vote and to be in tune with voting procedures and the electoral process.
That INEC in collaboration with NCDC and health agencies ensure adequate deployment of health personnel at all polling units and voting areas.
and that INEC should give assurances and make adequate provisions to protect and give access to people with disability, pregnant women and the elderly maintaining
that political actors should ensure that their actions and words do not trigger violence and heat up the polity unnecessarily.