The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the road transport unions on Tuesday met to review the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) jointly signed by them for logistics deployment for the 2019 general elections and other polls.
The unions are the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NATO).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting to review the implementation of the INEC/NURTW/NARTO MoU is to improve on logistics deployment ahead of the Anambra governorship election and the 2023 general elections.
Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Election Operations and Logistics Committee, in his remarks said that the partnership with the two unions was part of efforts to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
Ibeanu, represented by Special Assistant to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Muhammed Kuna, said while INEC had sole responsibility to conduct free, fair and credible elections, it needed the support of other organisations to achieve that.
He recalled that the MoU between INEC and the unions was signed on Dec. 12, 2018 in the run-up to the 2019 general elections and three years down the line there was a need to review it.
“This meeting is organised to review the implementation of this MoU and I believe that all participants here will testify that it has been a landmark in the conduct of elections.
“We need to review what has gone well and what has not gone well and what we can do in order to address what has not gone well, towards the 2023 general elections.”
The Chief Technical Assistant to INEC Chairman, Prof. Bolade Ayila, stressed the need to do the review of the MoU with the best intentions ahead of the Anambra governorship election and the 2023 general polls.
Ayila, presetting the meeting overview, said that the review was necessary to see if Polling Units (PUs) could be opened by 8 a.m. on election day in future elections.
Ayila, while praising the road transport unions partnership with INEC, said there was no way INEC could have effectively deliver elections materials in all the polling units without the partnership of the unions.
“This entire MOU was premised on the fact that we have to conduct elections and we have to move men and materials to our six zonal stores, 36 states and the FCT, to 8,809 Registration Areas (RAs) and to 119,973 Pus on election day.
“We have to transport materials to these places and retrieve them. It requires at least the cooperation of people like you.
“We need more than 80,000 vehicles to be able to do this and INEC does not have that number of vehicles. At the end of the day your support is needed,” he said.
Ayila said that there was the need to review the MoU that would end on Dec. 12, 2022 in the run-up to 2023, to make the elections better.
He said that the review would look into how each party to the MoU played their parts, how efficient and efficient such decisions were.
The NURTW President, Alhaji Tajudeen Baruwa, called on the INEC to extend its insurance cover to the unions’ members and vehicles being deployed for election duties.
Baruwa, represented by the General Secretary, Kabiru Yau, said that one of the challenges the union faced while implementing its MoU with INEC on election days was attacks on its members and vandalism of their vehicles.
“Vehicles were variously vandalised and burnt down in many of the states.
“The absence of any form of insurance cover by INEC for drivers and vehicles under the collaboration left the affected drivers without any form of support and at the mercy of the vehicle owners.
“The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members were engaged as presiding officers and were given insurance cover during election but our members were not given such insurance cover.
“In Akwa-Ibom, our vehicles were burnt down and some of our members were killed and there was no insurance cover for them.
“If there was insurance cover, they would have gotten something. We wrote to INEC, they have yet to reply,” he said.
He also appealed to INEC to look into the many cases of vehicle vandalism, especially in Akwa Ibom and Kogi.
This, to him, was with a view to finding adequate compensation for drivers who have lost their lives and or their means of livelihood while in INEC’s service.
Baruwa also stressed the need for INEC to improve on security arraignment for deployed vehicles and their drivers on election days.
He also advised INEC to look into the delay in the release of electoral materials which resulted in drivers working late and without security through the night to lift materials from INEC offices to various points of delivery.
“Inadequate security arrangement for vehicles and drivers resulted in widespread theft of personal effects and exposed our members to undue assaults, attacks and even deaths as was seen in states such as Akwa Ibom and Rivers,” he said.
Other areas INEC needs to look into, according to Baruwa, are sudden postponement of the elections in the wee hours of the election day when drivers were already in the field.
Others were delay in the release of funds by INEC in most states, which inevitably caused delay in the deployment of materials and personnel.
He also decried efforts by some Electoral Officers (Eos) to sideline or short change the unions in some states for their personal gain.
“In future, there should be no handling of cash by Eos. Their hands are already full with sorting electoral materials.
“To reduce time wastage, the Eos should hands off payment of drivers. If they must, payment should be via the state council of the unions a day ahead of deployment,” be said.
Baruwa, however, said that generally, reports from the various state council of the unions revealed that the logistics delivery exercise was a great success, notwithstanding the various hiccups.
In his remarks, the Country Representative, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Dr Daniel Mann, commended INEC and the unions for their collaboration.
He said that the review meeting was important in the common interest of Nigeria for credible future elections, especially 2023 polls.