The leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has agreed to release its members to participate in the conduct of the 2019 general elections in spite of the ongoing strike action by the lecturers.

This accord was reached on Friday at a meeting between the ASUU officials led by the President, Professor Abiodun Ogunyemi and Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Yakubu Mahmood held at University of Abuja, Airport, Gwagawalada.

The ASUU President, who brief newsmen after the meeting said his members could participate as Returning and Collation Officers in the forthcoming general elections.

INEC chairman had expressed fears that the ongoing strike action if not resolved would threaten the smooth conduct of the forthcoming general elections.

Ogunyemi said: “We had a good meeting with the INEC team and our relationship with INEC dates back to 2010 when a former President of the union, who was also the commission’s chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, collaborated with us.

“We have assured them that we will not stand in the way of our members participating in the election as ad hoc staff.

“The position of our union is that our members are free as citizens to participate in the election as ad hoc staff and we have reinstated this that we are not going to stop any of our members who wish to serve in that capacity.

“We have also assured them that we will continue to work together to deepen the content and process of elections in Nigeria,” he said.

INEC Chairman, Yakubu, in his remarks before the closed-door session, said the desire of the commission was that the collaboration with ASUU during the election period would continue, despite the ongoing strike.

He said: “The 2019 General Election is only 42 days away and elections will take place in 1,558 constituencies spread across 119,973 polling units clustered into 8,809 Registration Areas or wards in the 774 Local Government Areas and 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

“The number of election duty staff to be deployed by the commission is therefore huge.

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“Beyond the numbers, the commission is interested in the credibility of all election duty personnel. Since 2010, the commission has been drawing such personnel from the pool of graduates involved in the National Youth Service Corps scheme nationwide as Presiding Officers at polling unit level,” he said.

Yakubu, however, said the number was not always enough given the size of the country, the commission consequently, engaged students of federal tertiary institutions as assistant Presiding Officers.

He said: “While we pray that your ongoing industrial action is resolved speedily, the commission would like to appeal ASUU to consider the election as an essential service to the nation and maintain the collaborative relationship that would enable your members to continue to play critical roles in the electoral process.

“Within the time available to the general elections, it will be difficult to identify, recruit and train thousands of alternative Collation and Returning Officers needed for the election.

“For this reason, we appeal to ASUU to consider the following steps; one, continue with the existing collaboration with INEC; and two, allow your members to participate as collation and returning officers for the 2019 general elections as doing so will not derogate from the union’s withdrawal of service in respect of university-based activities such as teaching, supervision and statutory meetings.”

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