The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it would carefully scrutinise the list of lecturers which will be submitted to its for use as returning and collation officers by Vice Chancellors in the February 25 and May 11 elections.
Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of INEC saId this at a meeting with Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities on Thursday.
He added that the list of the nominees must be submitted confidentially by the Vice Chancellors in the manner prescribed by the commission in his letter to the Vice Chancellors.
He further added that like all election duty personnel, each collation and returning officer will swear to an oath of neutrality.
But Prof. Yakubu said INEC will not accept the nomination of university lecturers who are card carrying members or had participated in partisan politics.
He added that lecturers convicted of electoral malpractice will also not be accepted as Returning and State Collation Officers in the forthcoming polls.
According to him, for the 2023 general elections collation of results would take place in 8,809 Registration Areas or Wards, 774 Local Government Areas, 36 States and the FCT that required returning officers for each constituency.
“Put together, we will engage 23,258 personnel as Collation and Returning Officers. It is for this reason that this meeting is of crucial.
“We need the support of our universities to source the requisite number of suitably academic staff of impeccable integrity who must also understand that this is a call to national service.
“As in previous elections, we have requested each University for a specified number and category of academic staff as contained in my letter to the vice chancellors.
“I must warn that staff who are card carrying members or have participated in partisan politics should not be nominated.
“Similarly, those who may not be involved in partisan politics but are known to have obvious political leanings should not be nominated.
“Furthermore, those who have been convicted of electoral malpractice must be excluded.”
“Like all election duty personnel, each collation and returning officer will swear to an oath of neutrality.”
Yakubu commended partnership of Nigerian Universities to conduct of elections in Nigeria.
He said that without the involvement of the tertiary institutions, especially the universities, INEC would find it extremely difficult to conduct credible elections.
He said while INEC make use of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members as ad hoc staff for elections it make use of academic staff members as election collation and retuning officers.
“For the various collation and declaration centres, the Commission draws the required Collation and Returning Officers from the academic staff of our universities, including the Vice Chancellors who serve as Returning Officers for Governorship election and State Collation Officers for Presidential election.
“In spite of a few challenges, this happy partnership has further enhanced the transparency and credibility of the elections in Nigeria as well as public confidence in the process.
“The commission wishes to sustain this partnership,” he said.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, represented by Deputy Executive Secretary of the NUC, Chris Maiyaki commended INEC for its confidence in the Nigeria university system.
“We like to appreciate INEC for always recorgnising this constituency. Why haven they gone to the civil service proper? Why not to the union? Why not to the bankers?
“I think this underscore the importance, the trust that the nation has in the university system.
“We hope this meeting will turn out to be a productive and fruitful one and at the end of the day as the international community and the nation expect, this elections like previous ones will also come to pass and we will have course to glorify God that Nigeria rose to the occasion,” Rasheed said.
Also, the Chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Prof. Lilian Salami pledged that the academic staff deliver their best in the national assignment.
Salami who is also the Vice-Chancellor, University of Benin, said if Nigeria is to be celebrated among comity of nations the academic staff must play their role effectively.
“That is because not only are we training the man power for this nation but that we are also building characters and we of course, are persons of good characters.
“We expect that in any role that we are given, I can almost vouch that because we have through come out stronger and that we will deliver to this nation.
“At the end of this exercise, we will be proud to have contributed our quota to the development of this country,” Salami said.