The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has issued guidelines for safely conducting state and local government elections, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens.
It urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), parties, politicians and election monitors to place a premium on the lives of the electorate by adhering strictly to the guideline and bearing in mind that the deadly virus thrives in mass gathering.
The government encouraged all to comply with protective measures – limiting mass gathering, ensuring physical distancing of at least two metres, promoting hand hygiene and a mandatory use of face masks.
The Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, disclosed this in Abuja during the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He said: “Today we are announcing and launching a new guideline for the conducting of elections during the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria. “Some states will be holding state and local government elections this year, being the first time we are holding elections of this significance during the pandemic.
“Therefore, we have developed this guideline to support everyone involved – parties, INEC, but most critically, Nigerians that will be going to vote in these difficult times. “Voting still remains a civic responsibility and although we are in the middle of a pandemic, we have to find a way of doing this safely and we have to adapt to the new normal.
“As we know, the virus thrives in mass gathering, so there is a challenge we have in the way we have conducted our elections – pre-elections, during elections and post-elections. So, in doing this guideline, we try and offer advice on how to do this safely. The NCDC boss added: “We strongly encourage the use of television, radio, mobile vans, social media and other forms of communication as our politicians solicit votes.
“We advise careful adherence to mass gathering guidelines. Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t recognize whether we are conducting elections, religious gatherings or business settings – it just thrives when people come together. “We have provided specific guidelines for theses settings and none of them will be surprising and we’ll be explicit about it.
“We urge our political leaders to take responsibility and lead by example. Leadership will be critical in this era and we advise them to think of the lives of the electorate first. The electorate staying alive is much more important than any vote you can win.”