I bet the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can’t wait for the elections to be over. The pressure on them has increased several notches with the elections less than three weeks away. From having to extend PVC collection deadlines more than once to allegations of misconduct with the use of BVAS and, recently, calls for the removal of one of its resident electoral commissioners (REC).

But the last hasn’t been heard of controversies involving INEC. The latest that has tongues wagging is that the Lagos chapter of INEC might enter into a partnership with the notorious MC Oluomo. What could go wrong, eh?

What’s the gist?

On February 7, 2023, INEC held a consultative meeting at its Lagos office. The Lagos REC, Olusegun Agbaje, disclosed that it had no option but to work with Musiliu Akinsanya (aka MC Oluomo) to distribute election materials on election day. His reason was that the Lagos state government had banned road transport unions.

[MC Oluomo. SocietyNow]

These include the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN). As a result, he said he had no choice but to work with the Lagos park management system and the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), alleged to have links with MC Oluomo.

Naturally, members of the opposition aren’t happy with the development.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has also kicked against it.

Before we get into why there’s opposition to this move, what possible “benefits” could INEC get from working with the Oluomo-led parks management committee?

Pros of working with transport workers 

Caveat: this isn’t an endorsement 

For starters, movement is heavily limited on election day

. The only vehicles permitted to ply public routes are security vehicles, observers, and those with special status to transport sensitive and non-sensitive election material. Here’s where transport workers come in.

[Empty Lagos roads on election day. AFP]

They belong to the transport union and understand the terrain. This means they can swiftly dispatch materials on election day faster than usual by taking shortcuts and avoiding troublesome areas. They are also practical, logistically speaking. Ride-hailing services are obviously out of the question, bikes are banned, and even if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be suitable. INEC doesn’t have enough vehicles to dispatch to over 13,000 polling units in Lagos. 

Based on personal experience from the last election, what often happens is that INEC works with select members of the transport unions to move these materials. They assign buses to wards, and the drivers work with the supervisory presiding officers, who transfer several presiding officers to these buses. One bus could carry ad-hoc INEC officials to polling units within the same vicinity, saving time. 

As a rule, the buses must be accompanied by security agents wherever they go. The same applies to reverse logistics after elections have been conducted and the materials are being transported for collation.

Cons of working with transport workers

Yo, it’s MC Oluomo. The MC Oluomo. Here’s a guy notorious for thuggery and has claimed to be mentored by the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT). 

[Remember when Teni said she’d call MC Oluomo for your case?]

The optics aren’t great for INEC, which is supposed to be an unbiased umpire. Although INEC has said it’s not dealing with him in particular, it’s not very reassuring and raises fears that trouble might be brewing ahead.

INEC should address these concerns publicly because Lagos will be contested keenly in the coming election. Security agencies must remain on high alert to stem any potential threats of violence. This means INEC’s policy of attaching security agents to these vehicles must be followed strictly. The names of these drivers must be publicly available so they can be identified if they try anything funny.

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