The governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, has charged the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to set necessary guidelines to regulate the conduct of political rallies and elections in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ravaging the country, as political parties ready to hold primary elections in Edo State.

The governor made the submission when he received the Director General of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, at Government House in Benin City, the Edo State capital.

Mr Obaseki urged the NCDC to support the state in developing a framework to check the spread of the virus as political parties hold their primary elections. Nigeria, since the index case in February, has recorded 19, 147 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 487 deaths in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

“Constitutionally, we need to have an election. Electioneering has always been done in a certain way over the years. How do we, in the light of COVID-19 as a state, control the spread of this virus? How do we balance the political exigencies with our public health reality? We expect to get guidance from you as we cannot be totally apolitical. We need third parties to be able to authenticate public health messages that need to be observed during this period,” he said.

The governor expressed appreciation to the NCDC and other stakeholders for the support to the state in the wake of the pandemic, noting, “We understand the pressures you are facing in terms of the national response and therefore, as much as possible, we try to play our own little part and not add to the pressures.”

He said the state government’s response is based on key strategic pillars, which include a strong governance framework. “I want to thank you. You have been a resource pool in terms of our response. We have used your guidelines and models in establishing our governance framework with the various pillars. We have also integrated the incidence management framework which you have provided. We have developed the required human capital, facilities, and the logistics support to move people around the place. We couldn’t have done these without the knowledge and support from you.”

On his part, Mr Ihekweazu said the state government has performed creditably well in the management of the pandemic in the state, noting, “There have been a number of infectious diseases challenges around here, but it is not the challenges that have brought me, but the response to it. Your Excellency, you have really worked with your team across the board to confront those challenges and work for our people.

“I am really proud to be here and I have attended a number of online sessions with you. When you invited me to attend the last Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) meeting, I thought it was just to do a ceremonial five minutes appearance and leave, but when I saw you chairing the EOC for two hours, it became difficult for me to leave. It does show the level of personal involvement and time you have taken in your response and it shows the kind of leadership the new Nigeria requires to move forward especially when we have complex problems like this.”

He added that the NCDC, in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) is going round a few states for fact-finding and to understand the challenges and opportunities in checking the spread of the virus, so as to provide needed strategic support.

Elections are scheduled to take place in Edo State on September 19, while primaries of the varying parties would be held at earlier dates.