Lingering Fuel Scarcity may Negatively Impact Polls Arrangements, Says INEC Chair

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that the lingering fuel scarcity may affect the arrangements of the commission negatively especially on election day.

The National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this Tuesday at a sensitisation meeting on the implementation of the commission’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and other unions ahead of the forthcoming  elections.

He said the meeting with the unions was aimed at  achieving two objectives – first is to put finishing touches for the implementation of the MoU signed between the commission and the unions about two months ago and to conclude the modalities for the certification of vehicles by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), in the light of the emphasis placed on the safety of election personnel and materials.

The chairman noted that the issue of logistics has been a perennial problem in election administration in Nigeria, adding that that was why for three electoral cycles, INEC has collaborated with the road transport unions to address the problem.

His words: “For the 2023 general election, the commission has included the Marine Workers Union of Nigeria for efficient maritime transportation. The time has come to stop all excuses and provide effective logistics to ensure hitch-free arrangement for the 2023 general election. 

“Nigeria should not wait for the arrival of personnel and materials at the polling units. Rather, we should be there waiting for the arrival of voters. 

“We believe that this is achievable. Recent elections have shown that working in partnership with the unions and other stakeholders, we can achieve these objectives. And this is our patriotic duty and we should all make the necessary sacrifices in the national interest.”

Yakubu noted that the commission was aware that the task was enormous, stressing that election is the largest deployment a nation periodically undertakes and mobilization of vehicles for election is a large and complex exercise. 

He added: “However, this comes only once in four years. What is critical here is forward planning. We have presented to the union the number and specifications of the vehicles required for the election. We have also indicated to you the locations where the vehicles are needed. 

“Happily, your members are spread across the country. Therefore, vehicles conveying personnel and materials will not travel long distances. In fact, all movements should be within a state and preferably within local government areas. There should be no interstate movement.”

The chairman informed the unions that the MoU covered both forward and reverse logistics, adding that there was an obligation to return the personnel and materials to designated locations after the election.

According to him, “When you take election duty staff particularly those deployed to the polling units, please don’t abandon these ad hoc staff, particularly the youth corpers. We have a responsibility to take them to locations in safety and to bring them back in safety to where you took them.”

The INEC chairman noted that the commission was working with the security agencies to ensure the safety of union members and their vehicles during the elections. 

Yakubu said: “Just like our election duty personnel, the safety of your members is paramount. That is why in the most recent elections conducted by the commission, the leadership of your union, particularly the National Union of Road Transport Workers at state level, attended several meetings with our officials and the security agencies. 

“We also ensured that the union was represented in our situation room to coordinate the deployment of vehicles and the security of drivers. We will ensure that a similar arrangement is made nationwide for the general election.”

Yakubu noted that the commission shared the concern of the unions about the lingering fuel scarcity.

His words: “The commission shares your concern about the fuel situation in the country and its impact on transportation on election day. The truth is that our arrangements may be negatively affected by the non availability of products. 

“For this reason, the commission will this afternoon meet with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited to look into ways to ameliorate the situation.”

The chairman assured Nigerians that it would engage every national institution for the success of the forthcoming general election.

He said: “I can’t conclude my remarks without reminding you of your obligation to neutrality. The work of your unions requires non-partisanship. Working in partnership with the commission, you will be required to subscribe to the oath of neutrality and to demonstrate your non-partisanship in the work you do practically on election day.”

Earlier, the Corps Marshal of FRSC, Dauda Biu, said the corps has developed a checklist for the certification of vehicles for the forthcoming general election.

Biu, who was represented by the Corps spokesperson, Bisi Kazeem, however, said the corps learnt that there were some reservations especially by the unions regarding the checklist which was to ensure minimum safety standards of all vehicles of the unions.

He stated: “Bearing that in mind, the Corps Marshal agreed and approved the review of the checklist for certification of vehicles for selection

“The checklist certification, which in time past were carried out in a day or two to the elections, will now be done two weeks or week before the elections to enable all participants in the elections the various roles they will play.”

Biu informed the unions that all vehicles inspected and certified would be sealed with tags from FRSC for proper identification that it has met minimum safety standards.

The corps, therefore, called on all union leaders to inform their members to follow due process and cooperate with members of the corps.

On his part, the President of NURTW, Tajudeen Baruwa, said this was not the first time the unions would be signing MoU with INEC.

He assured the commission that the unions would not disappoint Nigerians.

Baruwa said: “We are assuring the chairman of INEC that we will discharge this duty diligently. We assure you that we are not going to disappoint Nigerians.”

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