The Independent National Electoral Commission on Thursday raised fresh fears that the ongoing face-off between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities could be a serious threat to the 2019 general elections.
Mr Festus Okoye, Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, made this known in Abuja at a one-day seminar on Media and Gender Sensitive Reporting of Elections.
According to Okoye, it is next to impossible for the members of the National Youth Service Corp to provide all the ad-hoc staff needs and requirements of the commission.
He said that over 70 per cent requirement in some states of the federation were drawn from students of federal tertiary institutions.
“For the 2019 elections, INEC will recruit and deploy over one million adhoc staff made up of lecturers and students in federal tertiary institutions and corps members.
“These category of adhoc staff will serve as returning officers, collation officers, supervisory presiding officers and assistant presiding officers.
“The bulk of assistant presiding officers will be drawn from students of institutions, INEC is presently organising root training for corps members and wants to begin that with students.
“So it is important and imperative that they are in school a month before the election for this to happen.,” he said.
Okoye therefore called on ASUU and the Federal Government to quickly and genuinely resolve the lingering impasse that led to uncertainty in the education sector.
He said the resolution of the problems that led to the strike would be in the national interest and Nigeria’s democracy.
Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, Chairman, Outreach and Partnership Committee INEC, said that the seminar was organised to brainstorm on new ways to use media to promote gender equality in the electoral process.
Ogunmola said that the commission understood the indisputable role of the media in setting and resetting the mindset of electorates to make the 2019 elections more gender sensitive.
He said that beyond the freedom to vote and adherence to electoral laws, a free and fair election was also about a participatory process where voters were well informed to make right choices.
Ogunmola added that the media serve this role through objective and impartial reporting of political events which help to shape public opinion and deepen democracy.
He urged the media to plan contents that would support gender in their reportage of the electoral process to ensure inclusiveness.
Mr Lansana Wonneh, representative of UN Women, said that when politics is inclusive and women participate, the results would be better.
Wonneh said that Nigeria leads Africa in almost everything except in terms of female participation in governance and politics where Nigeria was among countries with the lowest number.
“We are several weeks away from the general elections and this seminar could not be more appropriate.
“At UN Women, we are working with INEC to make sure that there are efforts in making elections free and fair and inclusive especially gender inclusive,” he said.
He urged the media to use it’s power to promote women in politics to change the narrative.