The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has ruled out the postponement of the 2019 general elections because of the dispute between the Federal Government and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The commission, however, said it had scheduled a consultative meeting involving its Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, its national commissioners and ASUU leadership on January 4.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the meeting would focus on the role and involvement of ASUU members in the 2019 general elections.

While expressing optimism that the strike would be called off before the elections, Okoye said INEC would explore other alternatives, including the use of vice-chancellors, professors and lecturers to serve as returning officers and collation officers, "depending on the outcome of the commission’s interaction with their leadership".

“The same thing applies to the leadership of the other unions in the different federal tertiary institutions that are on strike or are threatening to go on strike,” Okoye added.

Other alternatives, he said, included exploring the possibility of using federal employees and students of state tertiary institutions to make up for any shortfall.

Okoye said: “The chairman and national commissioners of INEC will on January 4, 2019 hold a consultative meeting with the leadership of ASUU.

"The meeting will focus principally on the issue of the role and involvement of their members in the 2019 general elections.

"The meeting will also explore the possibility of ensuring that the students would be on campus during the elections.

"The commission is confident that there will be a breakthrough during the meeting. The commission is not involved in the negotiation between ASUU and the Federal Government and may not stray into that area.

"The involvement of the commission is limited to harvesting the rich academic resources in the various federal tertiary institutions for the 2019 elections. The commission has relied on and will continue to rely on staff and students of federal tertiary institutions for its ad hoc staff requirements.

"Elections and conduct require some level of intellectual acumen. It is not an all-comers affair.

"The lecturers and students are clustered in an institution and they can be reached in cases of electoral malfeasance and election petitions.

"They have a better understanding of the electoral process.

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“Some of the vice-chancellors and lecturers have experience as some of them have acted as returning officers and collation officers before.

"Some of the students of federal tertiary institutions in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Edo and other places where the commission conducted off-season elections already have a store of knowledge and experience and only need refresher courses on new and creative innovations introduced by the commission.

“Furthermore, the corps members are fresh from institutions of higher learning and are serving in communities, local governments and states other than their own.

"They are not involved in the ‘local or domestic issues’ of the various states and may not be easily swayed or influenced. Most of them have been patriotic and some paid the ultimate price in serving their nation".

Okoye further stressed that “the commission is confident that there will be a breakthrough or middle ground that will enable the students and the lecturers to contribute their quota during the 2019 elections".

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