The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has no option than to engage Lagos State Parks Management Committee to distribute election materials and personnel in the state during the 2023 general election.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, Olusegun Agbaje, said this during the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) meeting at the commission’s office in Lagos on Tuesday.
Agbaje was responding to questions on controversies surroinding the engagement of the Parks Management Committee led by Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, a Lagos APC Chieftain, to distribute election materials.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had banned the operations of the Nation Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) in the state and set up Parks Management Committee to administer operations.
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, had however warned INEC not to use the Parks Management Committee led by Akinsanya, a former NURTW Chairman and APC stalwart, to distribute election materials in order not to compromise the election’s integrity.
Atiku, in a statement issued on February 2 by his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, said INEC must preserve the sanctity of the election and ensure that there is no room for electoral malpractice.
He said in doing so, the electoral umpire must ensure that the MC Oluomo-led committee was not mobilised to move materials.
He stressed that Akinsanya remains a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and had held solidarity rallies for the party and its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.
Speaking on the controversies, Agbaje said the commission was not concerned about Akinsanya but about individual drivers and vehicle owners to meet up with the high volume of logistics needs for the elections.
“There is a ban on the NURTW and RTEAN, we are only left with the Park Management system and NARTO (National Association of Road Transport Owners) and we are already working with NARTO.
“NARTO is not even able to meet up with 40 per cent of our vehicle requirements for this election. The commission in Lagos State does not have any option than to use park management system.
“We are not dealing with Oluomo, we are dealing with the park managers. Individual people that have vehicles are those we are going to use.
“So, it will be working against the law if INEC has to continue to work with NURTW or any other group that is proscribed in the state,” the INEC official said.
He, however, stressed that working with the state Parks Management Committee would not reduce the credibility of the polls, saying the movement of electoral personnel and materials would be monitored by security agencies, party agents, and observers.
“At the CBN where they are going to move our materials, there will be security agencies and party agents including the military to monitor and escort these vehicles from CBN to Local Government Areas.
“So, I don’t see how this can compromise the election in any way. Our politicians should see the peculiarity in Lagos State; we cannot work with banned NURTW or RTEAN.
“We need over 5,000 vehicles for this election, including trucks, buses and so on to carry our people and materials for the elections. There is no other way we can go.
“We cannot go to other states and bring vehicles here, it is not allowed by law. The only way we can operate is through the park management system.
“These are the only people that can give us any type of vehicles. In fact, most of the NURTW drivers are working with the park management system,” Agbaje added.
He, however, assured that INEC would not use any politically branded vehicle for the elections, such as any vehicle carrying the logo of a party or image of any candidate.
He said some other states, including Oyo State, a PDP-controlled state, has the same challenge where the commission has no option than to use the state park management system put in place by the state government.
“This has not in any way and will not in any way compromise the election,” Agbaje said.
The 2023 general election will commence with the presidential and National Assembly on February 25, followed by the governorship and states House of Assembly on March 11.