The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, on Monday, asked the Independent National Electoral Commission to pay its outstanding bills so the Air Force could help to airlift materials for Saturday’s by-elections.
Abubakar made the demand during a visit to him in Abuja by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to seek the support of NAF ahead of the February 3 rerun/by-elections.
INEC will conduct by-elections and re-runs in 26 states of the federation on Saturday.
In nine states, two senators, four members of the House of Representatives and three members of state Houses of Assembly will be elected in by-elections to replace members who died 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 as ordered by the Election Appeal Tribunals.
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 polling units involving 4,904,627 registered voters out of which 4,613,291 Permanent Voter Cards have been collected, according to the commission.
The INEC Chairman noted that the deployment of election materials was a huge task, hence, the need to seek the support of the air force to deliver election materials to three locations in the North-East, South-East and the South-West geo-political zones of the country.
He stated, “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, materials are being delivered to many locations.
However, given the size and distance of some constituencies, we seek the support of NAF to expeditiously deliver materials to three locations in the North East, South -East and South-West geo-political zones of the country.”
Yakubu, who noted that the commission had indicated to the Chief of the Air Staff the specific locations and the tonnage of materials to be airlifted, added, “The evacuation of the materials from the focal airports to the states where the election will hold will be handled by the commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria as has been the standard practice.
Thereafter, the inspection and movement of all materials to the various local government areas and beyond will be done with the full participation of all stakeholders, particularly agents of political parties and candidates, observers and the media in a transparent manner.”
On his own part, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar stated that the NAF had been INEC’s dependable partner in providing security in addition to rapid airlift and distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials across the country.
He said, “The successful conduct of elections is largely hinged on robust security and well-choreographed logistics supply chain management.
“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.
“I assure you that we remain willing able and ready to continue supporting INEC as we have always done in the past.”
Giving more details, the Air Marshal said, “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 that we have available.
“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.”