- Southern, Middle Belt leaders urge electoral body to resist manipulation
By Adedayo Akinwale, Shola Oyeyipoin Abuja and Segun James in Lagos
Following the failure of the federal government to find a lasting solution to the lingering strike by public university lecturers, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has decided to hold a consultative meeting with the lecturers’ union, the Academic Staff Union if Nigerian Universities (ASUU) on January 4, ahead of the 2019 polls, THISDAY has learnt.
The meeting, according to the electoral body, will be limited to the involvement of their members in the 2019 general elections.
ASUU had last month embarked on industrial action to protest the poor funding of Nigerian universities and alleged plan by the federal government to increase students’ fees and introduce an education bank.
But INEC had raised the alarm that the lingering ASUU strike would no doubt have serious impact on the preparations for the conduct of the 2019 elections.
“They are one critical resource and their absence will have adverse effects on the ad hoc staff requirement of INEC,” the commission had said.
Speaking on the issue, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Festus Okoye, told THISDAY that the commission is hopeful and positive that its scheduled meeting with the leadership of ASUU and the leadership of other unions in federal tertiary institutions would yield the desired result.
According to him, “ASUU leadership and the leadership of the commission led by the Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, will hold a consultative meeting with the leadership of ASUU on the 4th day of January 2019.
“The scheduling of the meeting is a clear indication that both parties are concerned and determined to find a middle ground that will enable the members of ASUU to continue their additional services to the country.
“The commission wants to emphasise that the meeting with the various unions will be limited to the involvement of their members in the 2019 general elections and how to manage the current industrial action for it not to affect the patriotic contributions of staff and students in the electoral process.
“The desire and wish of the commission is that the staff and students of federal tertiary institutions should be in school at least a month before the 2019 general election.
“Based on this, the commission has appealed and is still appealing to all the parties involved in the negotiations to consider the overall interest of the nation and negotiate in good faith.”
Asked if the electoral umpire was seeking alternatives should the federal government and ASUU failed to reach a compromise, Okoye noted that the commission was confident that all the parties involved in the dispute and negotiations would negotiate and resolve the issues expeditiously and in good faith.
He said it was also incumbent on the various stakeholders in the electoral process to nudge the parties towards a negotiated settlement of the issues that led to the industrial action in the various tertiary institutions.
The national commissioner added that the conduct of election is a multi-stakeholder venture and the success of the election would be in the best interest of all Nigerians.
Okoye said, “However, in the unlikely event of the strike action lingering beyond the projected timeline, the commission w