The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has postponed the four senatorial by-elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Plateau states over the Coronavirus global pandemic, with some recorded cases in the country. National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Festus Okoye, who disclosed this in Abuja, however, said the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September and October 2020 respectively are not affected.
According to him, INEC 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.
He said 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 Ignatius Datong Longjan. Okoye said arising from the declaration of vacancies by the President of the Senate, INEC commenced preparations for the conduct of by-elections to fill the 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 by-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,” he said.
The INEC commissioner said while INEC 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. He said the timetable and schedule of activities for the postponed by-elections would be issued as soon as the coronavirus pandemic is contained.