The recent statement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the strike by university lecturers could jeopardise the 2019 elections is highly unfortunate, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) said in reaction to INEC.
The spokesperson of SSANU, Abdussobur Salaam, disclosed in a revealed that INEC’s statement is ”highly unfortunate” and unbecoming of the national electoral umpire and notes that such ”unguarded statement” has a tendency to erode the confidence of Nigerians in the 2019 elections and is a threat to democracy in itself.
”We hereby demand that such unguarded and unbecoming statement is retracted in the interest of our democracy,” he said.
On Thursday, the chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, had said the lingering strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will have serious impact on preparations for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
According to Mr Okoye, it is next to impossible for the members of the National Youth Service Corp to provide all the ad-hoc staff needs and requirements of the commission.
Mr Okoye said over 70 per cent requirement in some states of the federation were usually students of federal tertiary institutions.
The teachers are protesting poor funding of universities and the failure of the government to implement an agreement it signed in 2009 with ASUU to improve facilities and enhance staff welfare at the institutions.
But Mr Salaam said the union was worried by the statement of INEC ”using the 2019 elections as a bait”.
He said while SSANU as a stakeholder in the university system is interested in the speedy resolution of the impasse between the Federal Government and ASUU, the ongoing national strike by ASUU has nothing to do with the 2019 elections.
Mr Salaam said it is true that many lecturers are picked by INEC as adhoc staff, but said ”they are not picked on the altar of ASUU and participation as adhoc staff of INEC should never been seen as a union activity.”
”To thus tie the conduct and success of the 2019 elections to the ASUU strike is indeed unfortunate and smacks of mischief on the part of INEC,” he said.
He said participation in national elections by citizens should not be seen from the prism of unionism but as a national duty and responsibility.
”We however note that given the antecedents of the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu, such pro- ASUU advocacy may not be totally unexpected,” he said, noting that Mr Yakubu once chaired the National Committee on NEEDS Assessment of Nigerian Universities.
He alleged that the INEC chairman, Mr Yakubu, advocated the dismissal of many non teaching staff in the university system.
”The INEC chairman had chosen to advocate the position of his union, using his vantage position as INEC Chairman to blackmail government and threaten the 2019 elections. We however find this statement as union advocacy taken too far because of the danger such statement portends for our democracy,” SSANU said.
”While we call on the federal government Government to speedily resolve the issues in contention with ASUU, we take exception to any statement or action aimed at threatening the democratic process, using the ongoing industrial action as a bait, ” he concluded.
The university teachers under the platform of ASUU began indefinite strike November 4, 2018.