The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has issued fresh guidelines on COVID-19 to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ahead of the states and local governments’ elections in some parts of Nigeria.
The Director-General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the disclosure in Abuja, on Monday during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
According to him, parties, politicians and election monitors are also to adhere to the new guidelines.
This, he said, was to ensure that a premium is placed on the lives of electorates by adhering strictly to the guideline, 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.
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.”
He, however, encouraged the use of the media and other forms of communication rather than attending mass gatherings.
“We advise careful adherence to mass gathering guidelines. Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t recognise whether we are conducting elections, religious gatherings or business settings – it just thrives when people come together.
“We have provided specific guidelines for these 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,” he stressed.