Festus Okoye, the National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has refuted claims that INEC and Musiliu Akinsanya, alias Mc Oluomo, the head of the Lagos State Park and Garage Management Committee (LSPGMC), have any kind of agreement to distribute INEC materials for the general elections on February 25 and March 11.
On Thursday, Okoye made a guest appearance on “The 2023 Verdict” on Channels Television. She denied explicitly linking the commission to park and garage management in Lagos State.
He clarified that what truly exists is a separate, legally binding agreement between members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the national electoral organization to transport sensitive and non-sensitive election materials to and from voting places around the nation.
The Lagos State government has now suspended the NURTW’s operations there, which is what gave rise to the Mc Oluomo-led LSPGMC.
“The point I am making is that the National Union of Road Transport Workers does not own vehicles,” he said. “Our vehicles are from the individual drivers.”
He added that the drivers are picked from the local government level of the union, and a contract is drafted between them and the drivers, but it is supervised by the union.
“For each driver’s we engage, and individual contract at the local government level with that particular individual who provides that particular vehicle will be made.
“What the union does is that it knows who its members are. So if, for instance, an individual driver that we have a contract with absconds on election day with electoral materials, the union can assist the commission to find out where that particular individual is,” he explained, stating the capacity in which the union is to assist the commission.
“At each local government area, the National Union of Road Transport Workers has its branches, but sometimes we meet them in our situation room, and sometimes they also help the commission know what has happened on election day in terms of whether their member has turned up or not.
“But essentially and fundamentally, we deal with individual drivers in terms of contracting; we don’t deal with the unions because they do not own the vehicles,” he added.
Meanwhile, on alleged pressure mounted on the commission to postpone the elections, Okoye said, “The chairman of the commission has been very consistent and clear and has said unequivocally that the dates set for the 2023 general election are fixed and firm.
“We have delivered over 80 percent of the non-sensitive materials required for the conduct of this election. Over 70 percent of the sensitive materials required for the conduct of this election are already with the central bank.
He added that INEC has laid out plans to begin training all ad hoc staff on the 11th of February, an exercise that will last until the 22nd of this month. “On the 11th of February, we are going to begin the training of all the ad hoc staff that will conduct this election. This training will last until February 22 of this year.
He emphasised that with all these preparations, no single individual or organisation can claim that the commission isn’t ready to conduct the general election.
“So in terms of getting ready, this commission is over 80 percent ready, so you cannot prepare so well and then begin to talk about rescheduling. Nobody is whispering anything to the commission; anybody who is whispering to the commission is engaged in an exercise in futility.
“The commission is the organ, agency that has the power to organize, undertake and conduct elections and we are proceeding with the elections,” he said.