The Independent National Electoral Commission, amid rising COVID-19 cases in the country, on Sunday set criteria that must be met by political parties before holding public rallies for the Edo and Ondo state governorship polls.
The commission’s National Commissioner and Chairman (Information and Voter Education Committee), Festus Okoye, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja, said before holding any rally, political parties must give INEC a seven-day notice.
The criteria, it was gathered, were aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 at the rallies.
While condemning a concert held by a hip-hop artiste, Azeez Fashola, alias Naira Marley at the Jabi Lake Mall, Abuja on June 13, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on June 15 warned Nigerians to avoid rallies of any category.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, said such gatherings could lead to a further spike in COVID-19 cases.
Okoye told media agency INEC had informed political parties that their guidelines for campaigns must conform with the NCDC protocols, including social distancing and use of face masks.
Warning against crowded rallies, the INEC commissioner said, “Political parties are encouraged to develop appropriate guidelines for the conduct of rallies and campaigns taking into consideration all the guidelines and protocols developed by health authorities at the national and state levels.
“Where there are conflicts between political parties’ guidelines on the conduct of rallies and campaigns and those issued by the commission, the commission shall draw the attention of the political parties to the discrepancies.”
He recalled that the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, had on June 9 issued supplementary regulations and guidelines for rallies and campaigns by parties, aspirants, candidates and their supporters in line with the commission’s policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.