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Polls: No face mask, no voting, INEC tells voters

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has foreclosed provision of face masks to voters during the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.

The commission, however, said wearing of face mask is compulsory, but warned that any voter who fears to wear or wears branded face mask of political party at the polling unit would not be allowed to vote.

INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, at the first virtual consultative meeting with the media, which was presided over by INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, explained that wearing face masks of a political party on election day is an electoral offence.

He said the commission will not donate or distribute face masks to voters because of the cost implications. “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?” Ibeanu asked. He 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. Ibeanu also said the commission would not carry out Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and distribution of Permanent Voters’ Card (PVCs) before the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.

He said some collation centres would be collapsed and some Registration Areas Centres (RACs) collapsed into SUPERRACs to contain spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 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,” Yakubu noted.

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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.

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