By Adeyemi Adeleye
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has no option than to engage Lagos State Parks Management Committee to distribute election materials and personnel in the state on election days.
Mr Olusegun Agbaje, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, said this during the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) meeting at INEC Office on Tuesday, in Lagos.
Agbaje was responding to questions on controversies around the engagement of the Parks Management Committee led by Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya (aka MC Oluomo), a Lagos APC Chieftain, to distribute election materials.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State had banned the operations of the Nation Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in the state and set up Park Management Committees to administer operations.
The PDP’s Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has, however, warned INEC not to use the Parks Management Committee led by Akinsanya, a former NURTW Chairman and APC stalwart, to distribute election materials in order not to compromise the election’s integrity.
Abubakar, in a statement on Feb. 2 by his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, said that INEC must preserve the sanctity of the election and ensure that there is no room for electoral malpractice.
He said that in doing so, INEC must ensure that the MC Oluomo-led committee was not mobilised to move materials.
Shaibu maintained that Akinsanya remained a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and had held solidarity rallies for the party and its Presidential Candidate, Sen. Bola Tinubu.
Speaking on the controversies, Agbaje said that the commission was not concerned about the person Akinsanya but about individual drivers and vehicle owners, to meet up with the high volume of logistics needs for the elections.
“There is a ban on the NURTW and RTEAN, we are only left with the Park Management system and NARTO (National Association of Road Transport Owners) and we are already working with NARTO.
“NARTO is not even able to meet up with 40 per cent of our vehicle requirements for this election. The commission in Lagos State does not have any option than to use park management system.
“We are not dealing with Oluomo, we are dealing with the park managers. Individual people that have vehicles are those we are going to use.
“So, it will be working against the law if INEC has to continue to work with NURTW or any other group that is proscribed in the state,” the INEC boss said.
He, however, stressed that working with the state parks management committee would not reduce the credibility of the polls as the movement of electoral personnel and materials would be monitored by security agencies, party agents and observers.
“At the CBN (Central Bank Nigeria) where they are going to move our materials, there will be security agencies and party agents including the military to monitor and escort these vehicles from CBN to Local Government Areas (LGAs).
“So, I don’t see how this can compromise the election in any way. Our politicians should see the peculiarity in Lagos State; we cannot work with banned NURTW or RTEAN.
“We need over 5,000 vehicles for this election, including trucks, buses and so on to carry our people and materials for the elections. There is no other way we can go.
“We cannot go to other states and bring vehicles here, it is not allowed by law. The only way we can operate is through the park management system.
“These are the only people that can give us any type of vehicles. In fact, most of the NURTW drivers are working with the park management system,” he added.
Agbaje assured that the commission would not use any politically branded vehicle for the elections, such as any vehicle carrying the logo of a party or image of any candidate.
He said that some other states, including Oyo State, a PDP controlled state, had the same challenge where the commission had no option than to use the state park management system put in place by the state government.
“This has not in any way and will not in any way compromise the election,” he said.
The 2023 general elections begin with the presidential and National Assembly polls on Feb. 25, followed by the governorship and states Houses of Assembly elections on March 11. (NAN)