SWITZERLAND, MARCH 20 – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced the postponement of bye-elections for senatorial districts in Bayelsa, Imo, and Plateau states because of coronavirus.
The affected districts in Bayelsa, according to a statement from INEC on Thursday, are Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West which their seats in the Senate became vacant following the election of their former occupants, Diri Duoye and Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, as governor and deputy governor of the state respectively.
The seat for the Imo North District, Imo State, became vacant following the death of its senator, Benjamin Uwajumogu, the same with Plateau South District whose senator, Longjan Datong, passed on.
INEC said the postponement of the bye-elections became necessary because of the “health emergency occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic”.
Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) empowers the election commission to postpone any election in the event of an emergency or national disaster, INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, said in the statement.
“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 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 rights 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 statement said.
INEC said the timetable and schedule of activities for the postponed bye-elections would be released as soon as the coronavirus is contend.
The governorship elections in Edo and Ondo, scheduled for September and October this year respectively, are, however, not affected by the postponement, INEC said.