Mine Scare: NAF Airlifts INEC Staff, Materials to Borno 

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By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Nigerian Air Force has accepted  to assist the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in airlifting its personnel and materials to Bama, Chibok, Danbua, Gwoza and Kala Balge local government areas in Borno State, as the nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise gets underway.

The commission said the move was informed by the intelligence report in the commission’s possession which revealed that the roads leading to the five local government areas had been mined by the retreating insurgents.

 Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who led a team of senior officials of the commission to the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, told the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar that the request was to ensure that no Nigerian was left out of the registration exercise. 

 In a statement issued on Friday by the INEC’s Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Oyekanmi, the commission assured that henceforth, citizens would be afforded the opportunity to register as voters all year round in all the 774 local government area offices nationwide.

: “We are embarking on a very significant exercise in the history of this ,country. For the first time in our democracy, citizens will be afforded the opportunity to register as voters all year round in all our 774 local government area offices nationwide.

“We have mobilised in all the states of the federation, including the northeast region, where our military is very active for obvious reasons.  But since the return of peace to Bornu State, a lot of Nigerian citizens who are in the Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) before and during the last general elections have returned to their towns and villages.  

“Our intention is that no Nigerian should be left out of this registration exercise. Every Nigerian counts and every Nigerian should be given the opportunity to register.

“But we are equally interested in the security of our personnel and materials, especially in the northeast. We have a challenge in a set of five local government areas – Danbua, Chibok, Gwoza, Bama and Kala Balge. And the challenge is not in the local government offices, but in the roads leading to these local government offices. 

“We have been reliably informed that the insurgents have, in some instances, mined these roads. We are all aware of the incident that happened last week involving some of our very senior officers.

“So we thought for that reason, in our effort to ensure that every Nigerian is given the opportunity to register, we should approach the Air Force to assist the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in respect of these five local government areas, to airlift and deploy our personnel and equipment for the purpose of this very important exercise, in the interest of our democracy and service of our fatherland.”

 Responding, Air Marshal Abubakar assured the INEC boss that the NAF was prepared to give the Commission all the support it requires to make the exercise a success. He said the  military will deploy its C100 jet for the airlift operations.

 Abubakar said: “This is the kind of partnership we are actually looking for since we have the assets given to us by the government of Nigeria and we can use these assets to support any agency of government. For us in the Air Force, we are very happy to get involved, to support you in whichever way we can. 

“The local governments you talked about are the areas where we operate every day, day and night. We will give you every support that you need to ensure that you conduct a successful registration exercise. And this is not only limited to Bornu state, but anywhere you need to move items,” he said.