By Aplefe Ojong and Elijah Ugani
Serious concerns are being expressed by political actors in Cross River state over the handling of the recruitment of ad hoc staff for the forthcoming general election in the state.
While the recruitment has been completed in most states across the country, the exercise in Cross River state seem to be shrouded in ominous opacity.
Last week INEC directed from the National headquarters that, collection of materials for the 2019 election including PVCs, has been decentralized to the ward level.
But in Cross River state, it appears the directive is taken in breach.
CrossRiverWatch has gathered that in neighbouring Akwa Ibom state for instance, the forms for those applying for the ad hoc election day jobs are available in all the LGAs in Akwa Ibom state and can also be printed online for free.
But in Cross River, intending applicants are not only being made to pay for the forms, they have to travel from different parts of the State, some for up to 7 hours, to the INEC office along Murtala Mohammed Highway in Calabar to queue for long hours, sometimes for days, to get the form.
“After queuing for long hours without being attended to, a group of boys and girls usually appear in the afternoons and start selling the forms for two thousand (naira) each. Once you can give them, they give you the form or pin.” One applicant who travelled from Ugep told our reporter.
“I came all the way from Obudu. Travelled for seven hours just to get here and get the form but I have been here for two days and they are not even attending to us. I don’t have a place to stay in Calabar. I am a stranger here. I stay in a hotel since I came. I have paid for two nights. It is after two days my friend informed me he paid two thousand to get her own form, I also had to still cough out two thousand to get mine. I will still pay transport back to Ogudu. I have been feeding myself. I have spent almost fifteen thousand Naira already. How much are they even going to pay us sef? Another applicant who came from Obudu asked angrily.
CrossRiverWatch findings reveal that INEC ad hoc staff for the 2015 general elections were paid N13,000 for the governorship and National Assembly elections and N17,500 for the presidential election and are expected to work the night before and through election day.
Meanwhile, some politicians have raised the alarm over the centralization of recruitment of the ad hoc staff in the state and questioned why it is not so in other states.
A senatorial candidate from the northern part of the State who spoke to this reporter said INEC has already created doubts about their plan for election day by centralizing recruitment of ad hoc staff.
The candidate who didn’t want to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter said: “First, different zones are supposed to have ad hoc staff who leave within the area they will work because they will be restriction of movement on election day. This centralized method means they want to recruit all their ad hoc staff in Calabar and then deploy to places with no proximity to their areas of assignment. That will initially deny most intending applicants in central and northern districts of that ad hoc employment. Secondly, recruiting everyone in Calabar and sending them down comes with huge political implications for those of us who are politicians. If you know, you know.”
Another Chieftain of the PDP in the Southern senatorial district also told this reporter that: “I am already hearing that some politicians are mopping up the forms from INEC and positioning their agents for election day rigging as INEC ad hoc staff. We will resist it. We will petition the REC accordingly.” He said.
Our reporter is currently sitting at the INEC office in Calabar, waiting to get answers from those who have them.
The management of the Commission in the State is still locked in a meeting at the time of filing this report (16:05hrs).
However some INEC staff at the premises who said they aren’t authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed to CrossRiverWatch that the Police earlier arrested one male suspect within the INEC premises for selling the ad hoc employment forms.
They claimed the suspect is not a staff of the Commission but could not explain how he got into the Commission’s premises to sell the forms.
When asked if the suspect is working in collusion with INEC staff, the staff quickly said there were not permitted to speak on the matter.
CrossRiverWatch has also reached out to the Police to confirm if any suspect is in their custody.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will recruit about one million Adhoc staff nationwide for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
The electoral umpire announced in a statement that applicants can apply for:
*Local Government Area Technology Support.
*Local government area Collation Officer.
*Presiding officer – PO
*Assistant Presiding Officer
*Supervisory Presiding Officer
*State Constituency Returning Officer
*Senatorial/National and State Constituency Returning Officer.
The roles of the ad-hoc staff will include:
Representing the Commission at the collation center on the state level constituency.
They will collate results from the local government areas of the State.
They will declare results for the State elections and hand over the results to the chairman of INEC.
They approve postings from local government areas two days prior to the election.
They help the PO in collecting documents and received materials, amongst others.
More updates shortly.
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