Ekiti/Osun Elections: INEC seeks NAF’s support in delivery of election materials

By Chimezie Godfrey

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has asked for the support of the Nigerian Air Force in delivery of outstanding election materials against the forthcoming Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.

The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu requested for the assistance during a courtesy call on the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, I. O. Amao on Wednesday in Abuja.

Prof Yakubu expressed delighted over the visit recalled that in June 2017, the Commission paid a similar visit to the Nigerian Air Force, adding that on that occasion, they solicited the support of the Service in deploying personnel and materials for voter registration to areas of insecurity in the North East.

Similarly, he noted 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.

He said beyond logistics support, the Air Force has also deployed its assets to provide security during off-cycle elections, especially in areas of difficult terrain.

Prof stressed that the neutrality and professionalism of the Air Force are immensely appreciated by the Commission, adding that no doubt, their collaboration has been of tremendous benefit to the electoral process and the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.

The INEC Chair who acknowledged the fact that the Commission can not handle the huge national assignment of conducting elections alone requested for further assistance from the NAF especially in the forthcoming Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.

He said,”Election constitutes the most extensive mobilisation and complex logistics operations that could happen in a country in peacetime. On 25th February and 11thMarch 2023, the Commission will deploy personnel and materials to about 190,000 voting and collation locations nationwide for 1,491 executive and legislative offices across Nigeria. These 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.

“It is obvious that in handling such a huge national assignment, the Commission cannot do it alone. Every national asset must be mobilised. 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 as follows:

“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”.

“Accordingly, the Commission is here today to explore more effective ways of ensuring that working together as provided by law, we address aspects of the perennial issue of logistics in our elections in which we believe the Air Force has a critical role to play in the movement of materials. This will be extended to other Armed Services in our determination to efficiently deliver materials and more efficiently serve Nigerians on Election Day.

“There is no time to waste. The 2023 General Election is only 261 days from today. However, the Ekiti State Governorship election is holding in the next 10 days on Saturday 18th June 2022 while the Osun Governorship election holds in 38 days on Saturday 16th July 2022.

“We will seek the support of the Air Force in handling the delivery of outstanding election materials to the two States while the Commission bears responsibility for all subsequent deployment within the States to the Local Government Areas and beyond as has been the practice.”

The INEC Boss also reassured Nigerians that the Commission will always work together with all stakeholders, particularly agents of political parties and candidates, observers and the media to inspect and accompany the movement of all materials to various locations in a transparent manner.