More than 100 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members trained as Electoral Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers in three Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Imo State have withdrawn participation from Saturday’s general election.
Sylvia Agu, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Imo, who disclosed this, on Thursday, in Owerri while speaking on the preparedness of the Commission in the State, said the corps members cited insecurity as their reason for withdrawal.
She said: “This morning, I received information that all the corps members we trained to work in Okigwe, Orlu, and Orsu local government areas have been withdrawn.
“They say they cannot go to volatile areas that these areas are terrorist areas.”
“I have called the NYSC to appeal to them but I was told that the scheme has even withdrawn all corps members serving in the three local government areas so as not to risk their lives,” Agu added.
According to her, the corps members withdrew their participation following the Commission’s decision to revert to polling units as against the use of stadia in the volatile areas.
Agu noted the commission had earlier faced security challenges in Okigwe, Orlu, Njaba, Orsu, Iheme/Mbano, Oru West and Oru East LGAs during the collection of the Permanent Voters’ Cards.
“Because of the problems, we had quite a low turn-out of Permanent Voter Cards collection in Okigwe axis and so, stakeholders in the area resolved to collapse five registration areas to Okigwe stadium.
“It worked well and was so impressive. They held another meeting and suggested that they come there to vote, but I asked them to put it in writing. I reported same to our headquarters.
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“When Orlu heard what Okigwe did, they came to me but I told them to get back to their people and were equally asked to write officially which they did.
“They say they are collapsing six registration areas to the stadium in the area,” she noted.
The REC said stakeholders in Orsu also pleaded to collapse their registration areas and further suggested Internally Displaced Persons Camp following the insecurity problem in the area.
She hinted receipt of similar complaints, of inadequate manpower from the police, who suggested that polling units should be streamlined to a particular area to ensure better security management.
However, Agu said the commission had forged ahead with the plan until representatives of the various political parties at a meeting held on Wednesday to finalise arrangement, kicked against it.
“They said it was unconstitutional.
“They even accused me of being in the payroll of the State governor to sabotage the election and that the said letters were fictitious,” she added.
Agu, who noted that the commission had reverted to the polling units, said it was considering the use of students for the election.
She said freshers’ training would be organised for the students who volunteer to work in the affected areas as Presiding Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers, particularly for Okigwe and Orsu.
Efforts to get the reaction of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) proved abortive as the Public Relations Officer, Ugochukwu Orunta declined comments on the matter.