By Princess-Ekwi Ajide, Abuja
Concerned about the growing insecurity in the country, the lndependent National Electroal Commission (INEC), has initiated strategies that would assist it in the deployment of personnel and airlifting of election materials for voter registration in crisis ridden areas, across the Federation.
The Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, commenced visits to Armed Services with a visit to the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, where he solicited support of the service especially in delivery of election materials in order to serve Nigerians more efficiently on Election Day.
He noted that on 25th February and 11th March 2023, the Commission will deploy personnel and materials to about 190,000 voting and collation locations nationwide for the 1,491 executive and legislative offices across Nigeria.
Professor Yakubu, also said, the activities must take place simultaneously, stretching over 923,768km2 within a space of six voting hours (8.30am – 2.30pm) involving a projected population of 90 million voters.
The INEC Chairman stressed that, in keeping with the long tradition of collaboration with the Commission, the Air Force served on the Electoral Logistics Committee ahead of the 2019 General Election and had served beyond logistics support, as the Air Force had also deployed its assets to provide security during off-cycle elections, especially in areas of difficult terrain.
According to him, the commission appreciates the neutrality and professionalism of the Air Force and their collaboration has been of tremendous benefit to the electoral process and the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria adding that in handling such huge national assignment, the Commission cannot do it alone as national asset must be mobilised.
The INEC boss emphasised that it is in realisation of this objective that the law empowers the Commission to seek the support of the security agencies in general and the Armed Forces in particular in delivering materials for election and the protection of election officials. Section 27(3) of the Electoral Act 2022 specifically provides that:
“Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law and for the purpose of securing the vote, the Commission shall be responsible for requesting for the deployment of relevant security personnel necessary for elections or registration of voters and shall assign them in the manner determined by the Commission in consultation with the relevant security agencies;
“Provided that the Commission shall only request for the deployment of the Nigerian Armed Forces for the purpose of securing the distribution and delivery of election materials and protection of election officials”.
Professor Yakubu further stated that the Commission’s visit to CAS was to also explore more effective ways of ensuring that working together as provided by law, will address aspects of the perennial issue of logistics in the elections in which the Air Force has a critical role to play in the movement of materials.
In his response, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, commended INEC for strengthening and advancing Electroal processes, especially with the improvement of electoral processes in Nigeria since Professor Yakubu took over leadership.
He promised that NAF would give INEC the necessary support and cordination in airlifting all election materials, logistics including staff in the election to any parts of the country especially remote areas of any State to ensure a hitch free, inclusive, fair and credible election.