Abuja, Kano and Kaduna — The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is worried that the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will impact negatively on its preparations for next year's general elections.
The chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, disclosed this in Abuja yesterday during a one-day seminar on Media and Gender Sensitive Reporting of Elections.
It is near impossible for members of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) to provide all the ad-hoc staff requirements of the commission, Okoye said, explaining that the electoral body draws over 70 per cent of the staff need from students of federal tertiary institutions.
"For the 2019 elections, INEC will recruit and deploy over 1 million ad-hoc staff made up of lecturers and students in federal tertiary institutions and corps members. This category of staff will serve as returning officers, collation officers, supervisory presiding officers and assistant presiding officers. So, it is important and imperative that they are in school a month before the election," he said.
Okoye urged ASUU and the Federal Government to resolve the deadlock, stressing that a quick settlement would serve the interest of the nation and democracy.
"We are several weeks away from the general elections and this seminar could not be more appropriate," said Deputy Representative of UN Women, Mr. Lansana Wonneh.
"At UN Women, we are working with INEC to make sure that there are efforts in making elections free and fair and inclusive especially gender inclusive," he said, urging the media to promote women in politics.
A survey meanwhile has identified potential triggers for violence during the polls. From a list of 12 actors, the report released in Abuja yesterday named the top five as: party thugs; political parties; INEC; religious extremists, cultists and other armed groups; and security agents.
The study conducted by civil society organisation, CLEEN Foundation, revealed that the states with high potential for violence are: Borno, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Abia , Rivers, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano and Taraba.
Some respondents during the research noted that the election could turn violent if the incumbent loses or tries to manipulate the process using electoral and security officials.
In his recommendation, Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation Dr. Benson Olugbuo said: "Our survey suggests the need for capacity building programmes for some of the critical elections stakeholders, to enhance professionalism and accountability in the discharge of their duties.
"INEC needs to be more involved in monitoring internal party processes and primaries with enhanced capacity to impose appropriate sanctions on erring parties.
"Government, political parties, media, and civil society organisations must escalate public enlightenment and sensitisation programmes on the dangers of vote buying.
"INEC should prioritise strategic communication to ensure that technical electoral hitches are not wrongly interpreted as deliberate attempts to favour a particular party or candidates during elections.
"Political parties and their candidates should be encouraged to sign and commit to binding peace agreements in the form of Peace Commitment Accord (PCA), which could help in reducing the potential for electoral violence.
"Practical and cost-effective election risk mitigation requires putting in place a robust early warning system to more accurately identify potential elections security threats before, during and after the elections."
The report came as President Muhammadu Buhari urged the Nigeria Police to ensure the elections are violence free.
He told cadets at a passing out parade in Kano yesterday: "It is the duty of the police and other security agencies to adequately secure the elections. You must do everything possible to avoid ballot snatching, multiple voting, vote buying and attempt by electoral officers to manipulate the outcome. Election must be conducted in a violence-free environment for it to be adjudged credible and fair in the eyes of local and international observers."
Similarly, the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Elimination of Drug Abuse and former Lagos State military administrator, Buba Marwa, warned politicians against promoting violence through the sponsorship of thugs and drugs.
He gave the warning at a meeting with traditional rulers in Kaduna.
"Don't give drugs to your supporters. There are some politicians that actually buy drugs for their supporters - the thugs - so that they can go and harass their opponents," he said.