By Lateef Ibrahim
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given directive for the immediate re-opening of its offices in Edo and Ondo States ahead of the governorship elections coming up in the two States later this year.
The Prof Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC, it will be recalled, had scheduled Saturday September 19, 2020 for the conduct of Edo State governorship election, while that of Ondo State was fixed for October 10, this year before the lock down in the country caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Commission however explained that the reopening of the offices will depend on existing lockdown guidelines issued by the respective state governments.
The directive was contained in a guidelines for resumption issued after the COVID- 19 lockdown by the headquarters of the electoral umpire in Abuja.
The guideline, according to INEC, was is in line with the Presidential directive of 26th April 2020 to gradually ease the lockdown measures imposed on the FCT Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States since 30th of March 2020.
The Commission stressed further that the guidelines, though consistent with those issued by the Federal Government/Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, also aim to reflect peculiarities of the Commission nationwide.
The guidelines covered areas such as hygiene and personal health, sanitation within office premises, distancing measures, and related matters for the headquarters and state offices of the Commission.
The INEC headquarters, in the guidelines, made it clear that the State offices should liaise with the various State COVID-19 Response secretariats on decontamination protocols for their respective States.
The decision to reopen the offices, the commission explained further, was taken in consultation with the relevant State Governments for issuance of necessary permits.
According to the INEC guidelines, “Ondo and Edo state offices should re-open immediately due to the upcoming gubernatorial elections in consultation with the relevant State Governments for issuance of necessary permits.
“Funds required to meet the hygiene protocols (decontamination, Hand
sanitizers etc) will be made available to these 2 state offices as soon as possible, and to all other state offices as the need arises.
“State offices should liaise with the various State COVID-19 Response secretariats on decontamination protocols for their respective States.
“LGA offices should remain closed and open only where/when necessary”, it explained.
All offices of the Commission, according to the guidelines, will be decontaminated before resumption and periodically to ensure environmental safety.
The guidelines explained further, “Staff of our Facility Managers and INEC cleaners shall be trained on continuous disinfection/decontamination procedures.
“The use of face masks is compulsory throughout the offices of the Commission, for all staff, visitors and contractors at all times.
The guidelines stated further:
*Staff are encouraged to have their own face masks and will be guided on the use of masks.
*No staff/visitor should be allowed into the Commission without face masks.
*Hand sanitizers will be provided at all entrances, exits and offices of the Commission. Meanwhile staff are encouraged to have their personal hand sanitizers.
*Office clerks will be given guidelines on handling/decontamination of mails and files.
According to the guidelines, “the INEC Clinic and sickbay staff will be provided with and trained on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and early detection of COVID-19 symptoms. Specific guidelines will be made available to relevant staff handling the thermometer at the entrances on early detection of suspected cases.
“Staff have responsibility to urgently report any suspected case with symptoms of the virus (cough, fever e.t.c) to the officer in-charge at the sickbay at the HQ, or any designated higher authority in other locations”, the guidelines stated further among others.