By Lateef Ibrahim
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has postponed the conduct of four Senatorial bye-elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Plateau states, citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the action.
The Commission, in a statement yesterday by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, the postponement of the four Senatorial elections will remain until the situation normalises.
The affected senatorial district elections are those of Bayelsa Central, Bayelsa West, Imo North Senatorial and Plateau South.
The Commission relied on section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which empowers it to postpone any election in the event of any emergency or natural disaster.
The Commission said further that it is compelled to take this step in recognition of the fact that all major activities in the electoral process involve large gathering of people.
The statement by Festus Okoye reads, “The Independent National Electoral Commission received notification of vacancies for the Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West Senatorial Districts following the swearing into office of Senator Diri Duoye and Senator Lawrence O. Ewhrudjakpo as Governor and Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State respectively.
“The Commission also received notice of vacancies for the Imo North Senatorial District following the death of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu and for Plateau South Senatorial District following the death of Senator Longjan Ignatius Datong.
“Arising from the declaration of vacancies by the President of the Senate, the Commission commenced preparations for the conduct of bye-elections to fill these vacancies.
“However, given the health emergency occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic and the preventive measures put in place by the health authorities, federal and state governments, the Commission has decided to postpone the four Senatorial bye-elections until the situation normalises.
“This is line with Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which empowers the Commission to postpone any election in the event of any emergency or natural disaster.
“The Commission is compelled to take this step in recognition of the fact that all major activities in the electoral process involve large gathering of people.
“These include the conduct of political party primaries, campaigns, stakeholder meetings, training and deployment of election and security personnel, movement of accredited observers and journalists, congregation of voters and other stakeholders at polling units, as well as the collation centres.
“While the Commission acknowledges the right and desire of citizens for effective representation, there is an over-riding public interest in ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all stakeholders.
“The timetable and schedule of activities for the postponed bye-elections will be issued as soon as the Coronavirus pandemic is contained.
“The governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for September and October 2020 respectively are not affected. We appeal for the understanding and cooperation of all”, it said.