Postponement: Our deferred poll story, by ad-hoc workers

Corps members

Corps members

They were set for the job at hand. By Friday, many of them had reached their station where they would serve as ad-hoc staff in last Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections. But suddenly the elections were postponed till this Saturday.

Before the postponement, many of the Corps members and students depolyed as adhoc staff by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had become disenchanted because they had not been paid their allowances.

Corps members

Corps members ready for the election

The postponement compounded their woes. They had left their homes for their assigned local government areas (LGAs) or Registration Area Centres (RACs), before the polls were shiffted, it was sweet relief to many of them.

They bemoaned what they called the unbearable treatment by the electoral umpire and blamed the National Youth Service Corps (INEC) for allegedly failing to   plan for their safety.

It was learnt some Corps members may soon begin a social media movement to warn the government against treating them as  “slaves”.

The Corps members are agitated over the disparity in their training allowances.

Ad-hoc staff in Lagos were to be paid N4,500 for the three-day training while, more or less was to be paid in other states. But, many are yet to collect the stipend, which they planned to receive last Saturday before the polls were postponed. Their election stipend is still a subject of controversy and many of them do not know how much it would be.

NANS blasts INEC

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) is leading the campaign for  better treatment of the ad-hoc staff.

It said INEC’s inability to conduct elections, despite allocation of huge resources to it by government, showed its incompetence to handle a national assignment.

“Without equivocation, NANS calls on the INEC chairman to immediately resign and save Nigeria an impending electoral doom,” the body said in a statement made available to CAMPUSLIFE by its National President, Danielson Bamidele Akpan on Monday.

The statement continued: “Painfully, despite the release of N234billion to INEC since October 2018 to commence preparations and Nigerians granting all moral support required for smooth operation, one wonders what logistics issues could have suddenly necessitated the postponement just five hours to the commencement of presidential and national assembly elections.

“From all available information, it is a fact known by all Nigerians, that INEC is incapable of delivering a near-perfect electoral process. Is it not alarming that even ad-hoc staff employed by INEC slept on bare floors, open spaces and school fields without sanitation and protection? Why should they be left vulnerable few hours to an important election? The peace of our nation is dependent on the peaceful, seamless and credible conduct of 2019 general elections by INEC.

“We urge Nigerians, especially students of voting age, to remain committed and patriotic to this civic obligation of enthroning popular choices to represent them across board.”

Ad-hoc staff narrates experience

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A Corps member, who identified himself as ‘Franklin, described his experience as terrible.

He said: “Earlier that Friday, I was deployed to our registration area centre (RAC) in Ejigbo. While on my way, we were called back to assemble at our local government – Oshodi Local Government. On getting there, we were told to, again, proceed to RAC. I felt so bad with this back and forth movement. I eventually arrived at my RAC at  midnight. I didn’t even see any security in place. No INEC staff to attend to us. The school had no light. We slept on the floor, and were exposed to mosquitoes. Some of us had prepared well for the exercise. Some bought enough food to sustain them all through the election. With the postponement, all that became waste of money and efforts.

“Some of my colleagues who had cars were able to take themselves back home. I left around 5am, walked a long distance before I got a bus to convey me back to my destination.”

An ex-Corps member Daniel Saiki said: “On Friday,” he said, “we all assembled here (Oshodi Local Government Area). That was the day our names were pasted, but we were told not go to our RAC until we received instructions from our supervising presiding officer (SPO). The place was more like a refugee camp. We stayed here all through the night in the open field, no bed and we were exposed to dew, and mosquitoes. Some just placed their heads on cars parked in the compound. It was a terrible night to recall. Some of us slept on the field, with no food to eat.  It was around 3am that we heard the election had been postponed. This is unfair to us. We need compensation.The government is not helping us at all.”

For Juliet Adibe, who was deployed in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government, her resolve to serve her fatherland remains unshaken despite challenges INEC foisted on her and her contemporaries.

“For me, I have always tried to be open-minded at all times and that was how I took the election.  However, it was a sad experience. Notwithstanding, I have taken it upon myself to do this job.

“I am not weighed down at all. I will participate in it on Saturday. Before the postponement, it was mandatory for corps members to participate; but after that, we were told that we can pull out if we do not want to participate anymore.”

Another corps member who simply identified herself as Susan said: “I cannot pull out (from INEC) now because I have to finish what I have started,” said Susan deployed to Ojo Local Government.

“I have suffered for it. I went through the training. Friday was the climax of the sufferings. All of us were here (Ojo Local Government) till the next morning.  (We) slept on the field with no bed at all just because of election.”

Another Corps member from Mushin Local Government, Ibaro Taiwo Paul, said the welfare package was poor compared with what was given them during the previous election four years ago.

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“The welfare was not fair at all,’’ Ibaro lamented.

“My experience (during the elections) in 2015 was better in terms of welfare. We were paid N9,500 each and I don’t know why it was reduced to N4,500 this year, despite the huge budget INEC got from the government. I can only pray everything gets better during the election by weekend.”

Muyiwa Daniel, another Corp member, corroborated Ibaro.

He said: ‘’The welfare was poor. They did not give us food until between 1 and 2 am, and despite that, it could not go round. Materials like ballot paper were not released as at 3am. Other sensitive materials were not enough.”

He continued: ‘’Card readers and ballot papers for the National Assembly elections were available on that day but ballot paper for presidential elections were not supplied. So, it was at the point of distributing the ones available that the Electoral Officer (EO) received the call and asked us to offload all the loaded buses. He then arranged the materials back in their office. It was a rancorous environment as many people were there to know their fate; that is, if they would work on that day or not.’’

Sunny Odozie, an ex-Corps member who chose not to identify his deployment post, said:  “As instructed, we arrived at RAC at exactly 2pm on Friday, expecting to see INEC officials who were to brief us on our roles for the day. While there, rumours started flying that we might pass the night there. As sheep without shepherd, we waited till around 2.55am when news came that the election had been postponed. We were without food, drink or accommodation. Most people slept on chairs, students’ benches and on bare floor. Thanks to the management of the school that provided about five electric bulbs to light the field. Till 5am that we left the place, there was no official to brief us. Most of us were poorly prepared as we thought we would be allowed to go home and prepare since they asked us to report by 2pm.’’

Miss Ann Chinoso, from Surulere Local Government, said: “We were at Surulere Local Government awaiting the materials. We waited all night not until around 3pm when we read on the social media that the election had been postponed. There was no INEC official to address or pass any information to us. We were just there –  no security, nobody gave anything to us, not even sachet water. There was a DJ, who was just there playing music. Everything was disorganised.”

For Esther Oyedele, who was deployed in Agege Local Government, nothing was different.

She said: ‘’Prior to the postponement of the general elections, we received a message from INEC to report at our RAC by 2pm. On getting to the place, there was no INEC official, or security. We had to wait until midnight. About 11.30, we heard from our SPO that they’d not received materials and that INEC officials were holding a crucial meeting. At this point, we went online to listen to news. About 3am, INEC chairman announced the postponement. We wanted more information from INEC but none came. About 4.30am, some people started to remove the bulbs. We challenged them and they told us they were acting on instruction from their boss. At that point, we realised we needed to move out of the place fast.”

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Oyebamiji Kehinde deployed in Ikorodu Local Government recounted how it had been smooth for her until Friday.

‘’The training was okay,” Oyebamiji began. “INEC tutors were awesome and I was able to grab everything. On Friday, however, I received a call around 12:00 pm from my SPO. He told me to be at the RAC before 2pm. When I got there, I met two Corps members and I noticed that preparations were still ongoing (for Corps members).

“We had to wait for hours for any INEC official to address us but nobody showed up. No arrangement was made. We slept on the bare floor. There was no electricity. Even the generator was malfunctioning. Each Corps members took care of his/her own welfare.”

Eniola Adebowale, who was deployed in Ikeja Local Government, was lucky to have come with his car which he eventually converted to a makeshift accommodation.

“I actually made the night a fun but felt bad seeing my fellow Corps members being downgraded,” Adebowale bemoaned.

“I slept in my car. I actually went through no stress before INEC selected us. I would still be participating because it’s actually my first time,” he added.

“It was horrible, really horrible,” lamented Mike Olarinmoye, another ex-Corps member deployed in Kosofe Local Government.

He continued: “We were asked to report to our RAC by 4pm. They did not provide anything whatsoever with regards to welfare except a place to charge phones. No food, no drinkable water, no mattress, no mosquito net, no security operatives. We were not even given an enclosed place to sleep. A lot of us slept on primary school chairs and tables, some slept on bare floor, and outside the classrooms. The most painful part was that for the over 12 hours, we were there, no official of INEC or NYSC came to address us; not even after the postponement of the elections. We were treated like animals.”

For Durojaiye Hammed Olawale, the Saturday experience was simply a pointer that Nigeria has no plans for her youths.

“Saturday night was the day I realised the Federal Government has no provision for the citizens,” said Durojaiye, who was deployed to Alimosho Local Government.

He continued: “I find it very difficult to remember the last time I slept on a bare floor with a carton, all in the name of serving my father’s land. The apartment provided for us is a memory I will never forget. Even if refugees were given this apartment, they will reject it.

Durojaiye added: ”Why should we be given N4,500 as training allowance? The selection  shows that corruption will never stop in Nigeria. People who attended the three-day training were not given the job. Those who got the job were those who tipped the coordinators before they added their names. If we should judge with what happened on Friday, no human being in his right senses will participate in the (next Saturday) election. However, if we can’t fight for our nation, who will?’’