By Gabriel Ewepu -Abuja
Ahead of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on September 19 and October 10 respectively, Civil Society Organisations, Monday, disclosed, to host live TV and virtual citizens’ townhall meeting on the elections.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo, explained essence of the two events as it is to facilitate public debate on the impact of COVID-19 on elections with a view to harness citizen input into the INEC policy on elections in the context of COVID-19.
According to the statement, the event is organized within the framework of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) programme with the following EU-SDGN partners; the Albino Foundation, International Press Centre (IPC), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), CLEEN Foundation, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Westminster Foundation, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), BBC Media Action, Institute of Media and Society (IMS) and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ). It is part of civil society’s contribution to ensuing electoral integrity and citizens’ participation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement reads in part, “On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, civil society groups will host a Live TV and virtual citizens’ townhall on voting amidst the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the September 19 and October 10 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states respectively.
“The townhall seeks to facilitate public debate on the impact of COVID-19 on elections with a view to harness citizen input into the INEC policy on elections in the context of COVID-19. The townhall will be hosted by Yiaga Africa and its partners with support from the European Union. The program will broadcast live on Channels Television (DSTV channel 254 and GOTV channel 95) on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 by 7:00pm.
“Critically, the townhall will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to build consensus on safeguarding public health and electoral integrity in the forthcoming elections. It is expected that the townhall will increase public awareness on new processes and guidelines introduced in the electoral process due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The live Two-Hour TV debate will bring together stakeholders including INEC, Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), security agencies, CSOs, political parties, citizens and the media to discuss the practicalities of conducting elections amidst COVID-19 and the overriding implications of not conducting elections within constitutional time limits. The event will also draw on experiences of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in other jurisdictions who recently conducted elections amidst COVID-19.
“To ensure public participation, the citizens’ townhall will be livestreamed on Channels TV and Yiaga Africa’s pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter via #VotingAmidstCOVID19. Citizens can send their questions and comments before or during the townhall to Yiaga Africa via SMS or WhatsApp to 09038007744 or email – [email protected]”
The statement also noted that, “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently released its Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Nigeria.
“The purpose of the policy, according to INEC, is ‘to enable officials and staff of the Commission to understand and respond adequately to the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its health and financial implications, and to provide a guide for engagement with stakeholders during elections’.
“The policy will regulate the conduct of the upcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo and rescheduled bye-elections. INEC is consulting with relevant stakeholders to solicit feedback on the proposed policy”, it added.