Following plans to contain the spread of Coronavirus, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced vacancies for the Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West Senatorial Districts following the swearing into office of Senator Diri Duoye and his deputy Senator Lawrence O. Ewhrudjakpo as Governor and Deputy Governor of the State respectively.
The Commission also announced vacancies for the Imo North and Plateau South Senatorial Districts respectively following the deaths of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu and Senators Longjan Ignatius Datong.
The commission, however, declared it has put a halt to arrangement for bye-elections in the affected senatorial districts because of the “health emergency occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic and the preventive measures put in place by the health authorities, federal and state governments”
Consequently, the Commission said it has postponed polls in the four Senatorial bye-elections until the coronavirus pandemic is brought under control.
INEC statement signed Barrister Festus Okoye said of the postponement: “This is 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 the 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, the congregation of voters and other stakeholders at polling units, as well as the collation centres.
“While the Commission acknowledges the right and desire of citizens for effective representation, there is an over-riding public interest in ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all stakeholders.
“The timetable and schedule of activities for the postponed bye-elections will be issued as soon as the Coronavirus pandemic is contained”.Okoye said the change in INEC’s plan regarding the senatorial districts does not affect arrangement for the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States scheduled for September and October 2020 respectively.