By-elections: Air Force tackles INEC over unpaid debt

In order to better assist the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Hassan Bala Abubakar has requested that the commission pay its overdue expenses.

During a Monday visit to the Air Force Headquarters in Abuja, Abubakar made this request while hosting a delegation of INEC management led by the commission’s chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

The Air Force Chief said, “I would like to seize this opportunity to remind the Chairman that there are some outstanding bills which are yet to be cleared by INEC. The settlement of those bills will enable us to serve you better.”

He noted that INEC was the first governmental organization to pay such a visit this year.

He noted that Nigeria stands out as a shining example for other nations of the world and is well renowned as the largest economy and democracy in Africa due to the success of the nation’s democracy being underpinned by strong institutions like INEC n, which works tirelessly to allow all citizens to enjoy the right to decide who should govern them in free and fair elections.

“The invaluable contributions of the INEC, distinguishes democracy as a form of governance unparalleled in its commitment to the people. Furthermore, it lends credence to the slogan that democracy is the best form of government known to man.

“I would like to commend Mr Chairman (Yakubu) for the numerous initiatives which have occurred under your watch. Some of which included continuous voter registration, introduction of new technologies, voter education and sensitization and post-election reviews.

“Another laudable milestone achieved was the Electoral Act of 2022, which introduced reforms aimed at more timely organization of pre-electoral processes and increasing transparency in results collation and reporting,” Abubakar said.

The Air Chief also noted that the successful conduct of elections is largely hinged on robust security and well-choreographed logistics supply chain management, and that the Nigerian Air Force has been INEC’s dependable partner in providing security in addition to rapid airlift for the distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials across the country.

He said, “I assure you that we remain willing able and ready to continue supporting INEC as we have always done in the past. At the moment, our C-130s are currently undergoing maintenance but we have other aircraft that can be employed to move sensitive materials. The caveat is that we need to move those materials a little earlier due to the capacity of the airplanes which we have available.”

Speaking earlier, the INEC Chairman congratulated Abubakar on his appointment as the 22nd Chief of the Air Staff and all other recently promoted officers serving at both headquarters and elsewhere.

He also commended the NAF for its cooperation in the area of election security and logistic support for the timely delivery of materials during general elections, off-cycle elections, by-elections, supplementary elections and re-run elections.

“I want to place on record the neutrality and professionalism of NAF in particular and armed forces in general in discharging your responsibilities. There has been no unhappy incidents or compromise on the part of your officers and airmen.

“This weekend (February 3), the commission will conduct bye-elections and re-run elections in 26 states of the federation.

“In nine states, two senators, four members of the House of Representatives and three members of State Houses of Assembly will be elected in bye-elections to replace members who passed on or resigned their memberships of the national and state assemblies.

“In other states, re-run elections will take place at designated constituencies or Polling Units (PUs) as ordered by the Election Appeal Tribunals,” Yakubu said.

He said in all, the elections will fill vacancies in three senatorial districts, 17 federal and 28 state constituencies spread across 80 Local Government Areas, 575 Registration Areas/Wards and 8,934 PUs involving 4,904,627 registered voters out of which 4,613,291 Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) have been collected.

He said, “In handling such a huge national assignment, the commission cannot do it alone. That is why we seek to mobilise every national asset, including NAF.

“It is in realisation of this objective that the law empowers the Commission to seek the support of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the delivery of materials and the protection of election officials as clearly provided for in Section 27(3) of the Electoral Act 2022.

“The elections are holding this weekend. Working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), materials are being delivered to many locations. However, given the size and distance of some constituencies, we seek for the support of NAF to expeditiously deliver materials to three locations in the North East, South East and the South West geo-political zones of the country.

“We have already indicated to the Chief of the Air Staff the specific locations and the tonnage of materials to be airlifted.”

Yakubu also said that the pending bill the Chief of Air Staff mentioned is the work and mandate of federal government and not solely about INEC and would be addressed appropriately.

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