By Biola Adebayo
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with road transport unions to use commercial vehicles for movement of election personnel and materials on election days in 2019.
The unions involved in the agreement are the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO).
However, only the commission, NARTO, and NURTW chairpersons and secretaries signed the MOU on Wednesday.
INEC’s Director, Voter Education, and Publicity (VEP), Oluwole Ossaze-Uzzi, said RTEAN was yet to sign because of unresolved issues which he did not specify.
According to the electoral commission, it would need over a hundred thousand vehicles for the elections, which the commission cannot provide alone hence the resort to commercial vehicles.
INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, in his speech explaining the reason for the MOU, said the commission had the same arrangement with the NURTW in 2015 but saw the need to expand the partnership to ensure a more efficient delivery and retrieval of election personnel and materials.
Mr Yakubu described the new agreement as another giant step towards making the 2019 elections better than the previous ones by making sure polling units open on time.
“This is the task that must be accomplished in the next 65 days for the general elections. We are determined that all polling units will be opened by 8 a.m and give Nigerians a pleasant voting experience,” he said.
He said for the commission to achieve effective and efficient delivery of logistics, it needs over a 100,000, which it cannot provide alone, thus the decision to partner with the unions.
He said the MOU is a general framework and the actual breakdown would be worked out at the state level between officials of the unions and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).
Mr Yakubu said the commission expects the unions to supervise their members and branches to carry out their function properly and also ensure neutrality.
He also promised that INEC would monitor the movement of the vehicles to ensure no personnel or material is diverted.
“We will require to swear to an oath of neutrality as your participation and effectiveness depends on this. We shall track the movement of vehicles electronically and eavesdrop on conversations in the vehicles.”
Thanking the unions for their commitment and sacrifices, he appealed to them not to fail on their part especially when it is too late for the commission to make a substitution.
He promised that INEC on its part would work with security agencies to provide security for the union workers on the day of the elections while they carry out their duties.
Listing the highlights of the MOU, the chief technical adviser to INEC chairman, Bolade Eyinla, said the MOU would address security for election and the capacity to move election personnel and materials to election sites on election day.
“We have built in this new MOU some administrative responsibilities. The new MOU ensures that we will certify the quality of the vehicles to be used on Election Day so they meet the required safety standard.”
He urged the parties to the MOU to abide by the responsibilities spelt out in it, ensure they assemble their vehicles at the time and locations required for inspection, make available the required number of vehicles requested and monitor and supervise its members to deliver on the conditions spelt out in the MOU.