The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has issued a new policy guideline for conducting elections during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The document dated 21 May was published on INEC’s website on Monday.
According to the electoral umpire, it is empowered by Section 160 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 153 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to regulate its own procedure or confer powers and impose duties on any officer or authority for the purpose of discharging its functions and issue regulations, guidelines and manuals for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the Act.
Part of the new guidelines issued to facilitate the conduct of elections during this COVID-19 pandemic includes the provision of infrared thermometers at collation centres, mandatory use of face masks by voters, provision of face masks for all electoral officers, provision of alcohol-based sanitizers at polling centres, disinfection of smart card readers after the fingerprint of each voter is read.
INEC said it will also ensure the enforcement of physical distancing by redesigning the polling unit layout to have a two-tier queuing system at the Polling Unit – one outside and the other in the voting area.
It added that voters will be brought into the voting area periodically to prevent overcrowding and that tags and twines may be used to ensure crowd control and maintenance of social distance.
It also announced that due to COVID-19, there will be a 30-minute adjustment to the voting period as polls shall now commence at 8.30 am and close at 2.30 pm.
Anybody on the outer queue by 2.30 pm shall be allowed to vote, in line with the commission’s regulations, it said.
The electoral umpire said it will evaluate all electoral activities to conform with the COVID-19 guidelines, update and track performance over time, while also engaging stakeholders in strategic consultation.
There are off-season elections to be conducted this year, including the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections holding on September 19 and October 10 respectively.
Also, the commission has been forced to postpone four bye-elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Plateau states due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown imposed.