By Akombo Aondona, Abuja
To ensure that eligible Nigerians cast their votes timely, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday, 20 December, 2022 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Union of Roads Transport Workers (NURTW) and Maritime Workers Unions.
The MoU is geared towards a swift and effective delivery of election materials and related logistics nationwide, especially in the rural areas.
At the event held at John Wood Hotel, Abuja, Chairman, INEC Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said personnel and materials would be available at the polling units awaiting voters rather than voters waiting for the arrival of the electoral personnel and materials.
Prof. Yakubu said: “The signing of a revised MoU with the road and marine transport unions today is a demonstration of our determination to implement key recommendations of the review exercise in order to enhance forward and reverse logistics in our electoral operations.
“The 2023 General Election will involve the nationwide deployment of over 1 million personnel and massive quantities of materials twice within a period of two weeks from our State offices to 774 Local Government Areas, 8,809 electoral Wards and 176,846 polling units across the length and breadth of our country. It will require over 100,000 vehicles and about 4,200 boats that will be accompanied by naval gunboats. This is a huge undertaking that must be accomplished in the next 66 days and we are resolute in doing so to give Nigerians a pleasant voting experience.
“Let me assure Nigerians that we are determined that all polling units nationwide will open at 8.30am on Saturday, 25th February 2023 for the Presidential and National Assembly elections and on Saturday, 11th March 2023 for the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections.”
The INEC chairman continued: “In order to ensure that personnel and materials will be at the polling units on Election Day awaiting the arrival of voters rather than the other way round, INEC requires large numbers of vehicles, including motorcycles, tricycles, boats and canoes in the riverine areas which cannot be met from its internal resources. It was for this reason that the Commission signed the first MoU with the NURTW in January 2015.
“In order to expand the pool of our service providers to meet the requirement for the increasing number of vehicles, the MoU was reviewed in December 2018 to incorporate NARTO.
“Over the years, the Commission has come to rely on the partnership with the NURTW and NARTO to provide vehicles for the successful deployment of electoral personnel and materials. However, we did not incorporate the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) within the ambit of the MoU, a situation which has often resulted in logistics nightmare in the deployment and retrieval of personnel and materials to the riverine areas of the country. This oversight is now addressed by the revised MoU to include MWUN comprising of sailors, dockworkers and those in related trades in our electoral logistics planning and delivery.
“The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we are about to sign today is a general framework. The contractual agreement between and Commission and the actual service provided will be worked out at the State and LGA level between officials of the Unions and our Resident Electoral Commissioners and Electoral Officers. The agreement which is legally binding will be based on the actual breakdown of the number of vehicles, tricycles, motorcycles, boats and canoes per State. It is therefore significant that our Resident Electoral Commissioners are present here today to witness the formal signing of the framework that will enable detailed work at State and LGA levels. I am also glad that the Unions are represented by their national leaders and as many of their zonal and State officials.
” It is our expectation that the leadership of the unions will effectively supervise their members in the various chapters and branches for the full implementation of the MoU. In doing so, you will be required to work very closely with our Resident Electoral Commissioners and collaborate with the Federal Regulatory and Safety Agencies to ensure that the objectives of the MoU are fully realised in terms of required road/sea worthiness and safety standards of your vehicles and boats. Furthermore, the knowledge of your members of the routes and topography in various parts of the country is especially important for ease of movement and a timeous and safe delivery of personnel and materials, especially to areas with difficult terrain.
” A new requirement in the new electoral legal framework is that everyone involved in election duties must subscribe to the INEC Oath/Affirmation of Neutrality. We will therefore require your members to swear and strictly adhere to this oath and the INEC Code of Conduct for Electoral Officials as your participation in the delivery of electoral logistics requires absolute neutrality and non-partisanship. The security agencies shall not only be available to escort all vehicles and boats to locations, they will also ensure the safety and protection of all election personnel and materials. As usual, we shall track the movement of all vehicles and boats electronically and in real time to ensure that election personnel and materials are not hijacked or diverted.
” Learning from the experience of the past, I would like to appeal to all the Unions and service providers to abide by the spirit and letter of the MoU and the contract agreements respectively. They must see their role as a national call to duty by ensuring that there is no failure on their part, especially on the eve of elections when it is too late for the Commission to make alternative arrangements. The Unions should keep an eye on your members to ensure that when they take personnel and materials to designated locations, they also bring them back at the end of the elections. Your contract is for both forward and reverse logistics.”
Prof. Yakubu added: “I want to place on record, our appreciation of the commitment of the Unions to our electoral processes and the consolidation of our democracy. In particular, we appreciate your collective and individual sacrifice to ensure that election personnel and materials arrive at designated locations early, especially during the recent Ekiti and Osun State Governorship elections. Together, we did it in Ekiti and Osun. It is now time to do it for the whole of Nigeria. We can do it and must do it for Nigeria.
“In the course of serving the nation, many of you have lost your vehicles to acts of arson and vandalism arising from violence and thuggery during elections. We appreciate that these vehicles are, in most cases, the sole means of livelihood for your members. While we appeal to political actors to call their supporters to order, I wish to assure you that we will continue to work with the security agencies to ensure the safety of your members and the protection of their vehicles and boats.
” On this note, I would like to thank our development partners, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and ActionAid Nigeria for supporting the review of the MoU and today’s sensitisation and signing ceremony, respectively. Your consistent support to the Commission in planning an efficient logistics delivery for the 2023 General Election is highly appreciated.”