By Celestine Ajayi
The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) says it plans to review its regulations and guidelines for political parties to accommodate COVID-19 protocols.
INEC Deputy Director, Election and Monitoring Shehu Wahab said this at the opening of a retreat on COVID-19 protocol for officials on Wednesday in Kano.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the retreat was organised with support from European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
Wahab said that the retreat was to review INEC guidelines to accommodate COVID-19 protocols and other related matters.
According to him, the retreat is being organised by INEC to comprehensively review guidelines and regulations relating to political parties and election observations.
Mr Hamza Fass-Fihri, the project Coordinator of ECES, said that the retreat was laudable as it was aimed at operationalising INEC COVID-19 policy, particularly in relation to engagements and monitoring of political parties.
“Political parties are the primary stakeholders in political system and their effective operations within the context of existing legal framework is crucial to the credibility of the electoral process and outcomes, and by extension the stability of the democratic system.
“However, the onslaught of COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on every facet of the national life including how democracy must work.
“It means actors within the political system can no longer do things as usual, because of the ravaging impacts of the pandemic especially on mass-based activities such as elections and political parties activities.
“The imperatives of exercising political rights are now being challenged or constrained with the reality of a pandemic that has no known cure so far,” he said.
Fass-Fihri added:“It is therefore a pragmatic step that INEC has formulated COVID-19 policy that will guide all stakeholders in the electoral process including political parties.
“Having implemented the policy in two governorship elections, Edo and Ondo States and several by elections, it is indeed a commendable step that this retreat is being organised among other objectives to seek ways to operationalise INEC COVID-19 policy in engagements with political parties.”
According to him, the retreat could not have come at a better time, given the recent spike in the cases of COVID-19 in several parts of the country.
He said that it was obvious that the nation has to live with the restrictions of COVID-19 for sometimes.
“Political parties by virtue of their positions as mass mobilisation organs of the democratic system must organise frequent rallies, campaigns and conventions with the inherent danger of large scale transmission of diseases.
“Mainstreaming a comprehensive COVID-19 response into guidelines and regulations of political parties is a necessary step towards ensuring that stemming the pandemic as well as devising innovative ways of ensuring that political parties continue to play their crucial roles as primary actors in the democratic process.
“I am delighted to note that the retreat will seek a review of all relevant and critical activities of political parties with implications for COVID-19 pandemic.
“These include rallies and campaigns, party primaries, election observation, party operations and party registration and that existing guidelines and regulations will be subjected to a comprehensive review at this retreat,” he said.