The Delta State chapter of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, finally has a befitting office where it can now carry out its statutory duties unhindered after years of using borrowed apartments, halls writes, correspondent, ANASTACIA ELUWA.
The commissioning of a moderate size event centre otherwise tagged, “Conference Hall” at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Delta State, on Tuesday, October 27, 2015, has puts off operational obstacles faced by the management and staff of the commission while carrying out their activities, after years of quest for a permanent venue to do so in Delta State.
INEC staff heaved a sigh of relief while celebrating the completion of the construction of the conference hall. Its commissioning attracted a former National Commissioner, Ambassador, Lawrence Nwuruku and the erstwhile Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, from Cross River, Bayelsa and Anambra states, the Police, Immigration, Prisons, amongst other guests.
As it were, the commission’s accommodation challenge had assumed a critical dimension to the extent that the agency had always looked forward to any meetings involving more than 10 persons with trepidation due to lack of suitable location within the Delta State INEC office complex.
Also, prior to the inception of the Central Bank office, INEC usually used the open space at the Delta State Police Command to distribute her sensitive materials, a practice that sometimes threw up procedural crisis, amongst other inconveniences.
With the new development, it is envisaged that the hall would facilitate the hosting of workshops, retreat, symposia, thereby reducing the cost of hiring halls to undertake these events.
Other functions include presentation of certificates of returns and award ceremonies, distribution of sensitive materials for elections, collation of results at state level, staff promotion examinations which used to hold at Federal College of Education, Asaba, training of ad hoc personnel, and solemn spiritual meetings without mortgaging the secular state of the nation.
Equally, the building has facilities for the commission’s drivers who until now stayed under trees while awaiting instructions for their day-to-day official activities.
However, the Resident Electoral Commissioner INEC, Delta State, Elder Aniedi Abasi Ikoiwak, who made the conference hall realisable in his time, described the commissioning of the hall as beyond celebration, but indeed the commemoration of the attainment of a pedestal geared towards further consolidating the gains already made by the commission in the field of election administration.
The commissioning of the project came at the twilight of all election petition tribunal cases in the state, in which all the winners of the 2015 general elections as declared by INEC, Delta State were upheld by the tribunals.
Elder Ikoiwak who gave insight of what the commission had grappled with in her almost 24 years of existence in Delta state, explained that when INEC relocated the distribution of sensitive materials to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, it had to deal with party agents’ petulant posture resulting in needless altercations, an attitude that often put the interest of their hosts in jeopardy.
“And when it appeared the CBN authorities had had enough of our politicians’ unwarranted belligerence this year, they were prompted to advise INEC to look elsewhere for the venue of her future sensitive materials distribution efforts,” Ikoiwak added.
He decried a situation where INEC internal staff audit was conducted at exorbitant cost at Grand Hotel, Asaba in 2008 for obvious reasons, regretting that in February, 2014 when the immediate past chairman of the commission, Professor Attahiru Jega paid a two-day working visit to Delta State, he was received under a canopy.
According to him, before now, collation of results occurred under the canopy or at times in the open space with the attendant disruptions of proceedings whenever it rained. A situation such as this, is capable of eroding the credibility of the process, it must be emphasised.
“Other events such as presentation of certificates of returns to winners of elections especially in the 2015 general elections, enlarged meetings with INEC staff and the like were conducted under unsavory conditions,” INEC REC emphasised.
He disclosed that the commission was compelled to tackle the construction of the conference hall because of the operational obstacles faced by INEC.
“And immediately after the conclusion of the highly successful 2015 general elections in April this year, the foundation of this house was laid. By looking inwards and with prudent management of resources, the project was completed with minimal delay”, he expressed.
The REC equally lauded the support offered the commission in the past by their sister agencies in making available their facilities for the smooth implementation of some of their exercises.
While expressing gratitude to the national headquarters of INEC for encouraging the pursuit of the initiative at a time when it was just coming out of the money guzzling 2015 vote, Ikoiwak said the commission in Delta state would continue to count on its reliable and dependable assistance in their future endeavors.
He highlighted some of the challenges being faced by the commission to include, inadequate accommodation for staff offices and ICT unit, as well as staff career progression to engender greater staff dedication to duties.
On his part, National Commissioner, Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku who represented the Chairman of INEC, thanked the staff of INEC, Delta State for giving their cooperation to the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Elder Ikiowak to realise the project. “If not for your cooperation REC would not have yielded this befitting conference hall”, he added.
Amb. Nwuruku urged all Nigerians to do well always because they would be appreciated. He congratulated the award winners and urged them to continue in their goodwill.
He however, pledged to look into staff accommodation soonest, saying that the commission had been doing a lot in terms of staff promotion and assured them that soonest promotion interviews will commence for 2015.
Also, the Comptroller of CBN, Asaba branch, Mrs. Elizabeth Agu expressed happiness that with the commissioning of the befitting hall by INEC, which is bigger than CBN’s strong room where sensitive materials were being distributed during elections, that INEC has freed CBN from politicians unwarranted utterances.
Highpoints of the ceremony was award of excellence to eight staff of INEC,who demonstrated exceptional commitment, dedication, altruism, perseverance, resourcefulness, loyalty, industry, courage, punctuality, integrity, regularity and charisma in the course of undertaking official duties for deserved recognition in the state.