There is discontent across the states following the replacement of or exclusion of ad hoc staff recruited by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) to conduct the general elections.
Earlier this month, INEC through Mr. Festus Okoye, Esq, a National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education of the commission, said they have recruited 814,453 ad hoc staff for the election, and that their training had commenced in all the states of the federation.
According to him, the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECS) were to supervise the training programmes.
However, reports from the states indicated that the exercise was marred by irregularities, heightening fears that there might be confusion in many voting units.
In Kaduna, our correspondent learnt that most of those screened as ad hoc staff for the general elections were not selected.
One of the trainees alleged that names of people that were not screened appeared in the final list.
“In my class, we were over 120 but only one person made it to the final list because names were brought from nowhere to replace ours,” she said.
The spokesman of INEC, Sani Abdulfatah, however, refuted the claim saying the selection was based on merit.
He said the number of people that applied was large whereas the commission required only a few, adding that only those that passed the screening were shortlisted.
“In Zaria for example we needed only about 2,226 but about 15,000 persons applied,” he said.
Many ad hoc staff that participated in the three-day training held in Katsina State were allegedly replaced, a development that led to a protest by some of the trainees.
A youth corps member said close to 1,500 of them took part in the screening exercise and training but when the final list came out, many were missing with no explanation.
A female corps member said she was successful but three others with whom they did everything were not considered.
Disturbed by the development, a group, the ‘Concerned Citizens of Katsina State’ petitioned the state office of INEC over the issue.
Its chairman, Comrade Muhammad Hamza, said political and partisan considerations played significant role “in the so-called recruitment of the ad hoc staff which was a violation of the Electoral Act.”
“We believe that this is the reason for the massive exclusion of corps members and students of federal tertiary institutions who, under normal circumstances, should have constituted the bulk of the INEC ad hoc staff,” he said.
“We therefore call for investigation of INEC REC and all other officials,” he said, adding that there is the likelihood those considered for the work would not deliver.
The spokesman of the commission in Katsina, Buhari Abbas, was not readily available for comment on the issue.
Similarly, many students of the Federal University and polytechnic in Birnin Kebbi, complained about how their names were allegedly replaced with people that did not participate in the training for ad hoc staff by INEC.
Some of the students said when they went to lodge complaint with those in charge at the INEC office, they were simply told that it was because they failed the screening test.
A 300-level student in the Department of Geology at the Federal University Birnin Kebbi, Lawal Kabiru, said “It was just a waste of time and our little resources.”
However, the INEC Head of Publicity in Kebbi State, Malam Adamu, told our correspondent that he was not aware of the issue. “Only those in the operations can tell you what happened,” he said.
In Plateau State, trained applicants for the ad hoc job, yesterday, accused the electoral body of changing their names with those of relatives and friends of staff of the commission who never participated in the three days’ training.
Fatima Muhammad Tanko said, “I applied for the job of Presiding Officer (PO). In the first list by INEC, I was short listed for the training, I attended the three days training, my bank detail was collected by the training supervisor but when I went to check for my name in the final list, it was missing.”
However, INEC’s Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity, Osaretin Imahiyereobo, said many people had been invited for the training in which those that performed the best were shortlisted.
One of the trainees in Bauchi, Emmanuel Ochogwu, lamented that he was excluded despite participating in the training.
“Nine of us from the same area trained at Bakari Dukku but none of us got the INEC ad hoc job. Unfortunately, some people have been favoured to get the job because of their connections at the expense of those who were rigorously trained for the job,” he said.
In Borno State, many youth earlier trained as ad hoc staff have lamented alleged swapping of their names with those of those not trained for the exercise.
They blamed local government electoral officers for replacing their names.
Dorcas David, who applied for APO in MMC Council, lamented that some people’s names appeared twice or thrice in some places.
“It is frustrating when you see people that did not attend any training session getting shortlisted,” she said, alleging further that “on the final list, some of us who were earlier shortlisted had been replaced.”
Ya’ Bintu Abdul also claimed “I know many of the people whose names were shortlisted but didn’t go through training. They replaced our names with the names of the relations of politicians and their families, I leave them the Allah.”
It would be recalled that no fewer than 300 corps members protested in Maiduguri on the eve of the postponed elections over replacement of their names after they were earlier shortlisted as INEC ad hoc staff.
The REC in the state, Alhaji Rabiu Aminu, told Daily Trust that there were some challenges and that he had called the attention of relevant persons to it.
“They have corrected some problems, everything is under control, “ Rabiu said.
In Gombe, many who applied and trained to work as ad hoc staff lamented the exclusion of their names.
Balkisu Bala, a student of Federal University, Kashere, said she participated in the training but when the final list was released, her name was expunged.
On her part, Hussaina Babayo, another student of FUK, alleged that she was replaced with someone “I strongly believe didn’t even participate in the training.”
However, the INEC Public Relations Officer in Gombe, Mr. Bigun Mohorret, debunked the allegations. He said the successful candidates were selected after a careful selection process.
In Cross River State, Mary Akpan who was one of those dropped said she was told that a new list was pasted.
But the REC in the state, Briyal Frankland, said it was not true that they dropped anyone, saying they only replaced those who did not turn up for the work.
The REC in Akwa Ibom, Mr. Mike Igini, said the commission selected only the best from the lot that were trained.
However, one of the ad hoc staff picked from a Federal Government agency, said, “It is true that some trained ad hoc staff were replaced but I can’t say if they were replaced with people who were not trained.”
In Benue, Terhemba Agee, whose name was shortlisted for the exercise said he showed up at his duty post in Gbajimgba town of Guma LGA during the aborted presidential and National Assembly elections without any hitch.
He added that he was fully equipped for the exercise and knows how to operate card readers as well as handle other important forms.
But Gerald Kaave, who said he was part of those trained and posted to Ushongo LGA for last’s week botched exercise, claimed that he could no longer find his name as ad hoc staff for the Saturday’s election.
In Kano, Samira Abubakar who is a corps member, said she was posted to Gaya Local Government only to be told on reaching the station that her name was not sent by the headquarters in the state.
Another applicant, Nasiru Muhammad Nadada, said though his name did not appear in the first list prior to the postponement, he saw it in the one released a few days ago.
In Enugu, Miss Maureen Omeje, an undergraduate of Computer Science at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, said she was sent to Enugu North Local Government Area for the three days training.
Omeje said she and others wrote an exam and did some presentations which they believed they passed but were all not considered.
The INEC in Bayelsa State said only those who gate-crashed during the training were not shortlisted as ad hoc staff.
INEC’s Administrative Secretary in the state, Mr. Leberi Sampson, challenged anyone who did the training and was not given the offer to come forward.
Instead, he said the problem they had was that most of the ad hoc staff lobbied to be deployed to urban areas.
The INEC in Anambra State has denied insinuation that some trained ad hoc staff were replaced with those who did not attend the training.
The Head, Voters Education in the state, Mr. Leo Nkedife, said there was no way the agency could use untrained ad hoc staff to conduct election because it would lead to crisis.
One Miss Chinwe Nworah, a staff of the state Ministry of Education, told Daily Trust that many people that participated in the training were not taken, adding however that she was not aware of anyone that was considered without going through the training.
Following protest by some prospective ad hoc staff in Lagos, the spokesman of the commission, Mr. Femi Akinbiyi, said not all those who participated in the training would be selected.
However, in a chat with our correspondent, he said training allowance of N4,500 would be paid to all those that participated in the training.
Daily Trust reports that some youth who participated in the training held penultimate week had protested omission of their names.
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