“We call on ASUU and the Federal Government to quickly and gently resolve the lingering impasse that has led to the uncertainty in the education sectors.”
Romanus Ugwu and Agaju Madugba, Abuja
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised the alarm over the lingering industrial action embarked on by lecturers in tertiary institutions, particularly members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
According to the electoral umpire, if not speedily resolved, the strike is capable of truncating the 2019 general elections, especially the presidential polls scheduled for February 16.
National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, who gave the warning at a one-day seminar on ‘Media and gender sensitive reporting in elections’ in Abuja, yesterday, pointed out that it was impossible for members of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) to provide all the ad hoc staff needs and requirements of the Commission.
“As you are all aware, Nigeria is 56 days away from the presidential and National Assembly elections. INEC is the constitutional, statutory and administrative driver of this particular process. But the commission is not the only player or stakeholder in the electoral process.”
While making appeal for the resolution of the strike, the INEC’s National Commissioner said: “For the 2019 general elections, INEC will recruit and deploy over one million ad hoc staff made up of lecturers from federal high institutions, members National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), and students of tertiary institutions.
“These categories of ad hoc staff will serve as returning officers, collating officers, supervising presiding officers and assistant presiding officers. The bulk of the assistant presiding officers will be drawn from the students of tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
“INEC is presently organising real training for Corps members that will be deployed as presiding officers. We want to resume training for students in various tertiary institutions in Nigeria and it is imperative that these category of students are in school at this point in time. It is next to impossibility for Corps members to provide all the ad hoc staff needs and requirements for the commission.
He said it was important that students of tertiary institutions were in school, at least a month before the February 16, 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections.
“They are a critical resource and their absence will have adverse effects on the ad hoc staff requirements of INEC,” he said.
“We, therefore, call on ASUU and the Federal Government to quickly and gently resolve the lingering impasse that has led to the uncertainty in the education sectors. The national interest, the interest of our democracy and the reputation of Nigeria demand the immediate resolution of the issues that led to the strike and we so urge.”
On the aim of the seminar, Okoye said: “For the media to cover, disseminate and report election activities in an objective and professional manner to deepen our democracy, it is imperative for the INEC to constantly interact, explain upfront in providing information to the public, to avoid speculation, and rumour mongering, especially at this critical election year. INEC is wrapped around inclusivity and believes in the doctrine of not leaving any segment of the Nigeria society behind,” he said.
Programme, the INEC Director, Gender Division, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu, gave further details on the objectives of the media workshop.
“Today’s seminar is designed to sensitise 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.