The Independent National Electoral Commission has raised the alarm that the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities would affect its preparations for the 2019 elections.
On November 5, 2018, ASUU began an indefinite strike action over the failure of the Federal Government to implement three areas in the Memorandum of Action it signed with the union on September 14, 2017.
On Thursday, a National Commissioner for INEC and Chairman of its Information and other Education Committee, Festus Okoye, expressed concerns about the effect of the ASUU strike on the 2019 elections during the opening of a one-day seminar on media gender-sensitive reporting.
The commission said that it would deploy over one million ad hoc staff made up of lecturers in federal tertiary institutions, members of the National Youth Service Corps and students of federal tertiary institutions in the elections.
The categories of ad hoc staff to be used during next year’s elections would serve as Returning Officers, Collation Officers, Supervisory Presiding Officers, and Assistant Presiding Officers. But Okoye expressed fear that the elections could be impacted negatively if the strike was not urgently called off.
He said, “It is next to an impossibility for members of the NYSC to provide all the ad hoc staff needs and requirements of the commission, and over 70 per cent of the ad hoc staff requirement in some states of the federation are drawn from students of federal tertiary institutions.
Hence, the lingering strike by ASUU will no doubt have a serious impact on the preparations for the conduct of the 2019 elections. We, therefore, call on ASUU 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 demand the immediate resolution of the issues that led to the strike and we so urge.
It is important that students in 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 effects on the ad hoc requirements of INEC.”