Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday said it could not afford the cost providing face masks to voters who will participate in the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
INEC National Commissioner, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, at meeting with the media, which was presided over by INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said “INEC cannot provide these face masks It is a major part of the challenge of cost. And I think it is not fit for INEC to be handing out masks.
“If we were to provide these masks for the registered voters in the elections that are about to come up, we are talking about 6.4 million voters. Even if you handed out masks costing N100, that is about N640 million already. So should INEC be spending N640 million handing out masks that voluntary organisations and government agencies can actually give to people if we had a national campaign for this purpose?”
The commission however said wearing of face mask is compulsory. It warned that any voter who fails to wear, or wears branded face mask of political party at the polling unit would not be allowed to vote.
Prof. Ibeanu called on the media to embark on a national campaign for good spirited individuals to donate and distribute face masks to the people.
“It is not just about the election, it is just that it will help in the circumstances of the pandemic. I don’t think anybody in Nigeria should not have access to face masks now. But the more important thing is that people can also improvise, and they need to understand that they can do so. This is where again it is a major role for the media,” he added.
Professor Ibeanu also said the commission would not carry out Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and distribution of Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) before the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
He said some collation centres would be collapsed and some Registration Areas Centres (RACs) collapsed into SUPERRACs (Super Registration Area Centres) to contain spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Professor Yakubu, in his opening remarks, said the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a rethink of many activities that had been taken for granted.
“With regard to the conduct of elections, the world is clearly sailing through uncharted waters. Only a few countries have conducted elections since the reported outbreak of the pandemic in December 2019,” Prof. Yakubu noted.
He disclosed that the commission had issued out a 10-item policy document to mitigate the risk to participants involved in the electoral process while ensuring the conduct of credible elections.
The INEC Chairman stated that accreditation of media organisations for the conduct of the elections during the pandemic would be through an online dedicated portal.