All election officials have received guarantees of their safety during the upcoming general elections from Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman.
The security for all 10 categories of election officials, from the top-level Returning Officers and State Collation Officers to the Presiding Officers, their assistants, as well as the accredited observers and the media, would be provided in coordination with all national security agencies, according to Mr. Yakubu.
All election duty officials are also covered by an insurance provision, he added.
The INEC Chairman gave the assurance following concerns raised by some federal university Vice Chancellors during a meeting with them at the National Universities Commission (NUC) Auditorium on Thursday.
Mr Yakubu had called for the meeting to seek the support of the vice chancellors in enlisting their staff as election officers.
But some of the vice chancellors raised security concerns for their staff who would be deployed to places other than the state capitals or collation centres where security officials are already present.
In response, Mr Yakubu said he had met with all the heads of security agencies in the country and had been assured of utmost security for all election staff.
“A few days ago, we had a meeting with all service chiefs in the country. And the issue of security was an utmost concern and consideration,” he said.
“We are working on a very comprehensive election security plan that covers not just the vice chancellors in their capacities as Returning Officers and State Collation Officers, but all categories of election duty staff. And by the way, be rest assured that we have also extended insurance cover to all those involved in election duty. We are not praying for anything to happen, but in case it does, there is insurance cover for all those involved in the election.
“I want to assure you, working with the security officials, we will make sure that all involved in the elections are adequately protected, whether they are presiding officers at the polling unit, –usually the corps member– we will provide security for them during the elections, and also provide security for corpers lodges, because there are instances where the corpers lodges were attacked after deploying the corps members for elections duty,” he added.
Mr Yakubu stated that the partnership with the universities during elections has continued to be a ‘happy’ partnership that has increased confidence in the electoral process.
He added that the training for the university staff will be conducted on the 21 and 22 February at the respective universities.
He said a bulk of the over 22,000 staff to be deployed for the election are from the universities.
He, however, cautioned the vice chancellors against nominating staff who are known to be partisan or card-carrying members of any political parties, or share affiliations with them.
He said any university staff previously convicted of electoral malpractices would not be accredited for the roles.
While the training for the Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs) begins on 11 February, he said the training for the university staff will be conducted on the 21 and 22 February at their respective universities.
In their separate comments, both the Deputy Executive Secretary of the NUC, Chris Maiyaki, and the Chairperson, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Federal University and Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, Lillian Salami, a professor, commended INEC and appreciated its confidence in the system.
Mrs Salami, on behalf of the vice chancellors, promised that the university staff will deliver their best in this national assignment.
“At the end of this exercise, we would be proud to have contributed our quota, and that is our commitment to the development of this country. I promise that we will deliver and do our very best,” she said.