The Academic Staff Union of Universities President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, has said the union has agreed to release its members to participate as Returning and Collation Officers in the forthcoming general elections.
Ogunyemi made the announcement after ASUU leaders met with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu in Abuja on the 2019 general elections.
He said, “We had a good meeting with the INEC team and our relationship with INEC dates back to 2010 when a former president of the union, who was also the commission’s chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, collaborated with us.
“We have assured them that we will not stand in the way of our members participating in the elections as ad hoc staff. The position of our union is that our members are free as citizens to participate in the election as ad hoc staff and we have restated this that we are not going to stop any of our members who wishes to serve in that capacity. We have also assured them that we will continue to work together to deepen the content and process of elections in Nigeria.
“We will continue to support them with research. This is because our strike as of today is about academic activities, we have not stopped conducting researches and community services. Participating in the election is part of community service and we as patriots will do everything to support the democratisation of Nigeria.
“We believe that our members will voluntarily participate in the elections.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Yakubu said the commission was not against the strike and demands of the union but only wished that the collaboration during the elections period would continue.
Yakubu said, “The 2019 general elections are only 42 days away and elections will take place in 1,558 constituencies spread across 119,973 polling units clustered into 8,809 Registration Areas or wards in the 774 local government areas and 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The number of election duty staff to be deployed by the commission is therefore huge.
“Beyond the number, the commission is interested in the credibility of all election duty personnel. Since 2010, the commission has been drawing such personnel from the pool of graduates involved in the National Youth Service Corps scheme nationwide as Presiding Officers at polling unit level. However, the number is not always enough, given the size of the country. Consequently, the commission engages students of federal tertiary institutions as assistant Presiding Officers.
“As the process progresses to collation and declaration stage, the commission draws from the academic staff of tertiary institutions, mainly the federal universities as Collation and Returning Officers. For some time now, INEC has relied on the universities for the critical mass of election duty staff. ASUU has collaborated with the commission in vetting the list of its members engaged as Collation and Returning Officers. It has increased public confidence and we should sustain and deepen it.”
While fielding questions from journalists, Yakubu said the commission was ready for the 2019 elections.
He said, “We had a very important interactive meeting with the union and we are very happy about the assurance we got from them. As a result of this meeting, Nigerians should rest assured that the 2019 election is fully on course.
“The first election will hold on February 16 and the second election will hold on March 2, as a result of which all the preparations we have put in place will continue. We will get our Returning and Collation Officers from our university system as we have already done.”