Agaju Madugba, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that the lingering industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may mar the scheduled 2019 general elections, especially the presidential polls expected to hold on February 16.
According to the Commission, a large chunk of the over one million adhoc staff to be deployed for the polls would be drawn from lecturers and students of federal tertiary institutions from across the country, to serve as retuning officers, collation officers, supervisory presiding officers, presiding officers and assistant presiding officers.
“It is next to impossibility for the members of the National Youth Service Corps to provide all the ad-hoc staff needs and requirements of the Commission,” the Chairman, INEC Committee on Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said on Thursday, in Abuja at the opening ceremony of a one-day media workshop on, ‘Gender Sensitive Reporting in Elections’.
Okoye said, “the over 70 per cent of the ad-hoc staff requirement in some states of the federation are to be drawn from students of federal tertiary institutions, hence, the lingering strike by ASUU will no doubt have serious impact on the preparations for the conduct of the 2019 elections.
“It is important that students of federal tertiary institutions should and must be in school at least a month before the February 16 presidential and National Assembly elections.
“They are a critical resource and their absence will have adverse effect on the ad-hoc requirements of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“We therefore call on the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government of Nigeria to quickly and genuinely resolve the lingering impasse that has led to uncertainty in the education sector.
“The national interest, the interest of our democracy and the reputation of Nigeria demands the immediate resolution of the issues that led to the strike and we so urge.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission is wrapped around inclusivity and believes in the doctrine of not living any segment of the Nigerian society behind and this workshop on Media and Gender Responsive Reporting of Elections is part of the deliberate policies of the Commission aimed at encouraging and underpinning the equitable participation of all segments of the society in elections and providing a level-playing field for all stakeholders in all stages of electoral process.”
Also speaking at the programme, INEC Director, Gender Division, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu, gave further details on the objectives of the media workshop.
As she puts it, “today’s seminar is designed to sensitize the media on the need to take conscious steps in mainstreaming gender in their reportage of the electoral activities for the 2019 general elections and beyond.
“In the past male politicians tended to receive more media coverage at the detriment of their female counterparts who sometimes get displaced for lack of adequate exposure.
“In general, election-related media reporting is naturally gender blind and insensitive to the challenges women face in the pursuit of their political ambition.”
The workshop, organised by INEC, in collaboration with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, had participants drawn from various media organisations from the north.