FOLLOWING the continued scarcity of fuel across the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, raised the alarm that the development could hamper election day logistics.
While the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, Limited assured the electoral commission of an adequate supply of fuel during the election, the three major presidential candidates also expressed hope that the scarcity would be resolved before the polls.
Speaking at a consultative meeting with officials of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the meeting was to put finishing touches to the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, signed between the commission and the union on December 20, 2022.
He noted that the issue of logistics had been a perennial problem in election administration in Nigeria.
His words: “The commission shares your concern about the fuel situation in the country and its impact on transportation on election day. The truth is that our arrangements may be negatively affected by the non-availability of products.
“For this reason, the commission will this afternoon (yesterday) meet with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, to look into ways to ameliorate the situation.
“I wish to assure Nigerians that we will continue to engage every national institution for the success of the 2023 general election.
INEC includes MWUN for maritime transportation
“That is why for three electoral cycles now, INEC has collaborated with the road transport unions to address the problem. For the 2023 General Elections, the Commission has included the Marine Workers’ Union of Nigeria, MWUN, for efficient maritime transportation.
“The time has come to stop all excuses and provide effective logistics to ensure hitch-free logistics on Election Day. Nigerians should not wait for the arrival of personnel and materials at the polling units. Rather, we should be there waiting for the arrival of voters. We believe that this is achievable. Recent elections have shown that by working in partnership with the unions and other stakeholders, we can achieve the objective. This is a patriotic duty and we should make the necessary sacrifice in the national interest.
“The commission is aware that this is an enormous task. An election is the largest deployment a nation periodically undertakes and mobilisation of vehicles for election is a large and complex exercise. However, this comes only once in four years.
‘’What is critical here is planning. We have presented to the union the number and specifications of the vehicles required for the election. We have also indicated to you the locations where the vehicles are needed.
“Happily, your members are spread across the country. Therefore, vehicles conveying personnel and materials will not travel long distances. All movements should be within a state and preferably within local government areas.’’
NNPC assures INEC of adequate supply
After a separate meeting with the INEC boss, the NNPCL, on its part, assured INEC of adequate fuel supply, noting that the current scarcity would not affect election day logistics.
The Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, who gave the assurance after the troubleshooting visit by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu, said: “We know that logistics is a major component of electoral duties.
“NNPC has always supported INEC, not in this direct form, in making sure that fuel is made available to all vehicles that are involved in the electoral process. “Needless to say that there was no formal framework for that, and there were no even formal requests for this. All the same, we are always conscious of the necessity to provide support to INEC whenever elections take place.
“Today’s very different, Mr Chairman, it’s not just an honour to NNPC, it’s also a challenge for us, to come into the equation in making sure that we have a stable political system in our country and we’ll be happy to contribute to this.
“Having said this, we are the largest downstream company in the country today. Six months ago, it was not so but today, we have acquired huge assets since our incorporation into a limited liability company and we have spread across the country.
‘’That is not to say that we are in every city and every town, it is possible that there may be some locations where we may not be present.
“We will work with your logistics team to identify those areas where we may not have a presence so that we can bring in other marketing companies into the conversation so that the products are made available to all the 100,000 vehicles you have indicated.
“There will be no difficulty doing this, Mr Chairman, we have a presence, we are everywhere. But where we are not, we will provide commercial conversation between the commission and other marketing companies so that when you need this product, you will have it.
“Also in addition to this, we are the only company that has floating mega stations in the country. We will also look at this and see how we can make it available for marine operations in the riverine areas of our country.’’
Earlier, Prof. Yakubu noted that the commission is mobilizing about 100,000 vehicles and 4,000 boats for the deployment of personnel and materials to 176,846 polling units spread across 8,809 registration areas (or electoral Wards) in 774 local government areas nationwide.
While he conceded that NNPC had taken steps to ease the current situation in earnest, Yakubu proposed the use of NNPC land and floating mega stations nationwide to service INEC’s election duty vehicles and boats.
His words: “We will bear the cost of the products. By doing so, there will be a guaranteed supply for elections.
“We want a special arrangement with other marketers in locations where the NNPC may not have dedicated stations; and, consider other options to support our seamless operations on election day.”
Things‘ll change before polls —Tinubu’s spokesperson
Reacting to the concerns raised by INEC, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Campaign Council, PCC, expressed optimism that the situation would change for the better before the polls.
Chief Spokesperson of the Council, Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, in a chat with Vanguard, said he had engaged with the top hierarchy of the NNPCL on the issue and had extracted commitment that the matter would be reversed.
Keyamo, who is the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, said: “I have had personal interactions with the top hierarchy of NNPC and I am confident the situation will ease significantly before election day.”
INEC should double-check transport unions — LP
Also reacting, the Labour Party, LP, yesterday, urged the electoral body to make arrangements to properly fund transporters on election duty.
The party noted that while it identified concerns raised by the election management body over challenges with the supply of petroleum products and how this might affect the elections, its fears laid more with the open allegiance some transport unions had with political parties.
Chief spokesman of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Dr Yunusa Tanko, said: “We will advise INEC to seek more funds and properly fund transporters engaged for Election Duty.
“I’m in Gombe at the moment, the product is available, the only thing is that the cost is exorbitant. A litre of petrol here is between N300 and N320.
“We will advise INEC to make money available to properly fund transporters on election duty.
“Our only worry is that in some of the states, the transport unions are under the direct control of political parties and godfathers who are known.
“INEC must be extra vigilant to ensure that the allegiance to these godfathers does not override national interest.”
It’ll be brought under control — PDP Campaign
On its part, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, expressed confidence that the scarcity of petroleum products would be brought under control before the presidential election.
Atiku, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Public Communications, Mr Phrank Shaibu, hinged his confidence on the commitment given by President Muhamadu Buhari to do everything possible to ensure a free, fair and credible election.
He said: “We believe that with the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to the conduct of a free, fair and credible election, the fuel scarcity will be brought under control before the elections.
“This is because allowing the fuel crisis to persist will be antithetical to the commitment of Mr President to ensure the conduct of credible polls.”