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RECs In Confusion As INEC Centralises Returning, Collation Officers’ Selection

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The decision of the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission to appoint Returning Officers and Collation Officers for all categories of the 2019 elections appears to be creating confusion among the Resident Electoral Commissioners who regard the recruitment as their responsibilities.
The RECs believed that the responsibility to appoint the returning officers and collation officers for the elections at the ward, local government and state levels belonged to them and had started the process of recruiting the ROs and COs.
In previous elections, the RECs had been saddled with the task of appointing the collation officers and the returning officers.
This is said to be based on the fact that the RECs, who operate at the state levels, know the officers who are credible and could be called upon to handle the collation and announcement of results effectively.
It was learnt that at a meeting between the INEC leadership and the RECs in Abuja in December, the criteria to be adopted in selecting the two categories of officers were outlined.
It was further learnt that the selection was meant to be discussed at another meeting in of the commission in January.
In anticipation of the approval of the names of the vice-chancellors and university lecturers to be appointed in their states, the RECs were said to have started the collation of names to serve as returning and collation officers.
However, a memo from the Office of the Secretary to the Commission, INEC, signed by the Secretary, Mrs. Rose Oriaran-Anthony, on January 30, instructed the RECs that the appointments of the ROs and COs would be done by the headquarters of the agency.
In the memo with ref: INEC/HQ/SEC/809/IV, Oriaran-Anthony stated, “It has been observed that some states have started recruiting Collation Officers for the 2019 general elections, which is not in line with the commission’s approved guidelines for sourcing of ad hoc staff.
“Kindly note that all Collation Officers for the 2019 general elections (i.e. RA, LGA. Federal Constituency and Senatorial) and all Returning Officers are to be recruited and posted by the headquarters.
“Please be guided.”
But some of the RECs, who spoke with newsmen on condition of anonymity on Saturday, alleged that the leadership of the commission might have other suspicious plans for the elections than had been stated.
One of them said, “It is not the duty of the headquarters to appoint returning officers and collation officers; that has never been the practice. The RECs know the people in the state and in the institutions in the state. How can anybody handpick ROs and COs from 36 states and the FCT for all the elections?”
Another REC, who also spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said there was a growing concern among the RECs what the leadership of the agency wanted to achieve with the latest development.
“It appears there are more to this move than all of us know. No, we are not even talking about rigging. The officers are to preside over the collation and announcements of results.  Why would the commission choose to appoint people that it does not know,” said the REC.
“If there is violence during the collation, either at ward or local government centre, won’t people suspect that the ‘foreigner’ among them has swapped the original copy of the results with another copy? That’s why we are confused at the moment, especially when we don’t know who we are going to work with just two weeks to the elections.”
But a National Commissioner of INEC and Chairman, Information and Voter Education of the commission, Mr. Festus Okoye, said the electoral umpire decided to centralise the recruitment of the returning officers and the collation officers in order to know the personalities better.
Okoye, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday, explained that the centralisation of the recruitment had become necessary so that “some people” would not make “advances” to the officers before Election Day.
The national commissioner added, “INEC decided to centralise the recruitment of the officers in order to know them. We want to know who are the returning officers and the collation officers.
“We have contacted the universities directly. The vice-chancellors are sending the list to the chairman of INEC directly under serious cover.
“Each of those to be Returning Officers and Collation Officers will not know their posting until a day to the elections. They will not be exposed to manipulations with such arrangements. We want to be adequately transparent.”
Okoye stated that the greatest challenge of the commission was how to manage the number of party agents and collation officers at the about 120,000 polling units nationwide.
He said, “It’s going to be tough. If we have 91 political parties and 73 presidential candidates, how do you manage the number, especially when we are going to have all the candidates participating in the elections?”
Okoye, who disclosed that INEC had stopped giving grants to political parties, added that a special arrangement had also been made to ensure that the Internally Displaced Persons in Benue and the North-East states could vote during the elections.
“The IDPs will vote, either those in the camp or those who ran away from their places because of attacks. We will conduct elections where it is safe to do so,” he added.

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RSU, IAUOE Join Varsity Workers Strike. Today

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Workers of Nigerian universities will begin a nationwide “warning” strike today following the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum given the Federal Government to address issues of Earned Allowances, sacked workers of university staff schools and other issues affecting their members and the university system.
President of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Chairman of Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU, Samson Ugwoke, told newsmen that the strike would be “total and comprehensive”.
Ugwoke pointed out that already, their members have been mobilised, while all the non-teaching staff in the university system across the federation have been directed to stay at home from today.
The SSANU president, however, said it would last for five days, from Monday to Friday, to serve as a warning to the Federal Government.
“Yes, the strike will start on Monday, and it will be comprehensive and total. It will last for five days – Monday to Friday. To ensure its success, we have already mobilised all our members, and they have been directed to stay away from work from Monday,” Ugwoke said.
The unions, under the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU, had issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to meet their demands or face a nationwide strike.
The unions said the strike had become imperative as the government failed to response to their demands.
In a circular issued after the JAC meeting penultimate Thursday, and sent to all branches, the unions warned that at the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum, they would be left with no other option than withdrawing their services and closing down the universities if the government fails to address all their grievances.
Entitled: “Notice of Industrial Action,” the circular, which was signed by Ugwoke and the General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, lamented the non-challant attitude of the Federal Government towards addressing their grievances and obeying court judgment.
The circular read: “That a 14-day ultimatum of industrial action be given to the Federal Government to address the pending issues with effect from Monday, August 5, 2019. During the period of the ultimatum, all branches are hereby directed to carry out peaceful protest on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 and Thursday, August 15, 2019.
“At the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum, Sunday, August 18, 2019, without any positive response from the Federal Government, members shall proceed on a five-day warning strike in all branches from Monday 19 to Friday, August 23, 2019, inclusive.
“You are, therefore, directed to properly mobilise our members for this action. All defaulting branches shall be sanctioned accordingly.”
However, academic and other official activities would be paralysed in the two state-owned universities, the Rivers State University (RSU) and the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education (IAUOE) following the nationwide industrial strike embarked upon by the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) under the aegis of Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU, today.
Speaking to The Tide on the decision to join the strike in the state, the Chairman of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) at the Rivers State University (RSU), Nkpolu-Oruworukwo, Port Harcourt, Comrade Azuma Cheta said members of the union would join the strike beginning from today because of alleged government’s insensitivity to the plight of their members working at the university staff schools as well as its inability to comply with the national directives of the union.
Cheta disclosed that the state government had refused to pay their members working at the staff schools and the international schools their salaries for the past four years.
The chairman said they would have relaxed the strike but for the interest of those members now languishing in pains over the government’s refusal to pay them salaries since February, 2016.
“We will comply with the directive but for our members at the international schools and staff schools, who the state government has refused to pay salaries for the past four years”, he stated.
Also at the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education (IAUOE), the Chairman of SSANU, Comrade Chisa Egwu could not be reached for comments, but a senior staff working at the administration department, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said they held a congress meeting on the proposed strike, last Friday, at the union’s auditorium.

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Police Confirm Three Deaths In Khana Fresh Violence …LG Boss, Ex-Youth Leader’s Houses Razed

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The Rivers State Police Command has dispelled ‘fake news’ making the rounds that more than 36 persons were killed by suspected cultists in a raid on two Khana communities of Opuoko and Lumene in Rivers State, yesterday.
In a statement, yesterday, the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, confirmed that only three persons were actually killed during the attacks on the communities in Khana Local Government Area.
The statement reads, “The attention of the Rivers State Police Command has been drawn to the above ‘caption’ making the rounds on social and traditional media on the state of affairs in Opuoko and Lumene communities in Khana LGA.
“Ordinarily, this distorted news should have been ignored as the command is not given to frivolities and fake news capable of stirring disaffection and causing panic and tension in the state.
“However, in order that the public will not be immediately misinformed and hold erroneous impression resulting from the fake news, we have, therefore, deemed it necessary to put the records straight, and state as follows: That today 18/8/19 at about 0630Hrs, information got to us that a group of cult boys invaded two communities in Khana (Opuoko and Lumene) where they attacked and killed one person in Opuoko and two in Lumene, altogether three persons died.
“The houses of the LGA chairman and the former youth leader came under attack.
“The attackers on sighting the police took to flight but were chased and two of them arrested, while the trail for others is still on.
“The two suspects are Damwua Karagbara, 33 years (alias Spider); and Dinee Prince, 23 years.
“Exhibits recovered from them include: Assorted phones and military camouflage.
“So far, calm has returned in both communities.
“The CP has ordered Investigation into the incident with a view to ascertaining the remote and immediate causes of the attack and to bring perpetrators to justice.
“We are again appealing to the public to help us with useful information that can lead to the arrest of these mindless criminals, via the following security numbers: 08032003514, 08098880134, and 08182157778”, the statement added.

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Lawyer Petitions UK, DSS To Probe Buhari’s Cambridge Documents

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The Department of State Services and the London Metropolitan Police Service have received petitions to investigate the documents said to have been obtained from Cambridge University and tendered by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential election petition tribunal.
Copies of the separate petitions dated August 14, 2019, were signed by a Nigerian lawyer, Kalu Kalu Agu.
It would be recalled that the president’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, had told the tribunal that he obtained the President’s ‘assessment’ documents from Cambridge University.
He was quoted as saying he personally signed for and collected the documents on behalf of the President.
The UK-based examination body oversaw the conduct of final year secondary school examination in Nigeria and placement into foreign universities in the 1960s.
In the two petitions forwarded by Agu, the lawyer questioned the authenticity of the ‘certifying statement’ said to have been obtained from the Cambridge Assessment International Education.
He asked the UK police and the DSS to launch an investigation into the circumstances leading to the procurement.

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