By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has postponed the conduct of four senatorial by-elections indefinitely as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The commission disclosed this in a statement issued by Mr Festus Okoye,
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, on Thursday in Abuja.
Okoye said the by-election, which included Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West Senatorial Districts, Imo North Senatorial District and Plateau South Senatorial District, were postponed until the situation normalised.
He recalled that INEC received notification of vacancies for the Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West Senatorial Districts following the swearing into office of Sen. Diri Duoye and Sen. Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo as Governor and Deputy Governor of Bayelsa respectively.
He also recalled that the Commission also received the notice of vacancies for the Imo North Senatorial District following the death of Sen. Benjamin Uwajumogu and for Plateau South Senatorial District following the death of Sen. Longjan Datong.
“Arising from the declaration of vacancies by the President of the Senate, the commission commenced preparations for the conduct of by-elections to fill these vacancies.
“However, given the health emergency occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic and the preventive measures put in place by the health authorities, federal and state governments, the commission has decided to postpone the four senatorial by-elections until the situation normalises.
“This is in line with Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), which empowers the commission to postpone any election in the event of any emergency or natural disaster.
“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 political 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,” he said.
Okoye said while INEC acknowledged the right and desire of citizens for effective representation, there was an over-riding public interest in ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all stakeholders.
He added that the timetable and schedule of activities for the postponed by-elections would be issued as soon as the Coronavirus pandemic was contained.
Okoye, however, said that the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September and October respectively were not affected by the postponement.
“We appeal for understanding and cooperation of all,” he added.