As campaigns for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections gather momentum, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said yesterday that it will work with security agencies to enforce the Quarantine Act to ensure political parties and electorate comply with public health and social measures (PHSM) on control of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The electoral body told LEADERSHIP in an exclusive interview that any infringement of the laws by parties or electorate will be followed with stipulated sanctions.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other stakeholders had introduced public health and social measures (PHSM) for the conduct of elections.
For politicians, the NCDC said the parties are expected to publicise and adhere to codes of conduct including public health and social measures during rallies and at election locations.
“This should be done through relevant communication channels -posters, TV and radio jingles. Avoid utilising campaign venue to full capacity; we recommend one-third of venue capacity (minimum of two metres should be observed among people at the gathering).
“Hand hygiene facilities including soap and water/ hand sanitisers should be made available for people before gaining access to campaign ground. The use of face masks must be mandatory for everyone attending the campaign rally,” the guideline stated.
In addition to the NCDC guidelines, Edo and Ondo States had also passed laws to check the spread of the virus. While the Quarantine Act is operational in Edo, the Dangerous Infectious Diseases (COVID-19) (Emergency Prevention) Regulations was passed into law in Ondo.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP yesterday in Abuja, the director of Voter Education and Publicity (VEP) in INEC, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, stressed the need for political parties to comply with all the existing law and guidelines regarding COVID-19 during their campaign.
He said, ‘’Political parties have to comply with all the existing laws and guidelines regarding COVID-19 during their campaign and during elections. If parties or electorates violate the laws the security agencies will do their job.
“We will also rely on Quarantine Act provided by the state executive.’’
He added that any party that breaches the PHSM will face the sanction stipulated therein.
“In as much as the laws provide sanction, it all depends on the breach of the guideline. For example, if there is breach of the guidelines and Quarantine Act they will face the sanction stipulated,” he stressed.
The INEC director said the commission was awaiting a formal petition against the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki and former national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, over the non-observance of the COVID-19 guidelines and laws by their supporters who thronged their recent political events in the state.
While his loyalists besieged the party secretariat in Benin when Obaseki defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Oshiomhole’s recent return to his home town saw his loyalists thronging the streets in large numbers.
APC Knocks PDP, Says Opposition Party Is In ‘Do- or- Die’ Mode
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has lambasted the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over what it termed a “do-or-die” plot to ensure incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki wins the September 19 election in the state.
The APC further stated that it will not allow PDP turn the state into a killing field, wondering why the opposition needed a show of force to govern.
APC was reacting to the violence that characterised Saturday’s flag off campaign of Obaseki’s re-election bid.
The party, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by its deputy national publicity secretary, Yekini Nabena, also accused PDP members of desecrating the Oba’s Palace in Benin where innocent residents were wounded.
The party said, “The disturbing images and reports of the destruction of property and violence meted on hapless victims during Saturday’s campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Edo State governorship candidate, Godwin Obaseki in Benin City, the state capital is a glimpse into the “do or die” plot the PDP plans to unleash in the lead up to the September 19 Governorship Election.
“To imagine that the PDP chose to desecrate the Palace of the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II is despicable, unheard of and a new low even by PDP’s ignoble standards.
“The PDP in Edo State is not campaigning for votes but relying on brute force, violence and intimidation ahead of the governorship election. The Governor of River State, Nyesom Wike promised on Saturday to make sure that everything needed is done to foist the PDP governorship candidate on the good people of Edo State.
“We definitely will not watch helplessly and allow the PDP and Wike turn Edo state into a killing field in their attempt to foist an unpopular candidate.”
APC strongly condemned the violence and called on security services to fish out perpetrators and their sponsors of the weekend mayhem wrecked on Benin residents.