Ahead of Saturday’s by-elections and re-runs across 26 states, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has requested the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to settle outstanding debts before assisting with airlifting election materials.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, made the demand during a visit from INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
Yakubu had visited the NAF boss to seek support for airlifting election materials to remote locations in the North-East, South-East, and South-West ahead of the February 3 rerun/by-elections.
The electoral umpire will conduct by-elections and re-runs in 26 states of the federation on Saturday. In nine states, two senators, four members of the House of Representatives, and three members of state Houses of Assembly will be elected in by-elections to replace members who died or resigned their memberships of the national and state Assemblies.
In other states, re-run elections will take place at designated constituencies or polling units as ordered by the Election Appeal Tribunals.
In total, 26 states will see elections for three senatorial seats, 17 federal constituencies, and 28 state constituencies, filling vacancies across 80 local government areas and involving nearly 5 million registered voters.
Abubakar acknowledged NAF’s role as a “dependable partner” in past elections, providing both security and rapid airlift services. However, he stressed the need for prior settlement of outstanding bills to ensure smooth operations for Saturday’s polls.
Yakubu acknowledged the logistical challenges and highlighted the legal provision empowering INEC to seek support from security agencies for material delivery and election protection.
He stressed the need for swift airlift to ensure timely delivery in distant constituencies.
He said, “In handling such a huge national assignment, the commission cannot do it alone. That is why we seek to mobilise every national asset, including NAF. It is in realisation of this objective that the law empowers the commission to seek the support of the security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies in the delivery of materials and the protection of election officials as clearly provided for in Section 27(3) of the Electoral Act 2022.
“The elections are holding this weekend. Working with the Central Bank of Nigeria, materials are being delivered to many locations. However, given the size and distance of some constituencies, we seek the support of NAF to expeditiously deliver materials to three locations in the North-East, South-East, and South-West geopolitical zones of the country.”
Both parties assured a transparent process, with Yakubu detailing specific locations and material tonnage for airlift. The evacuation from designated airports to the states will be handled by INEC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), followed by inspection and movement within local government areas involving stakeholders and observers.
“The evacuation of the materials from the focal airports to the states where the election will hold will be handled by the commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria as has been the standard practice,” Yakubu said.
“Thereafter, the inspection and movement of all materials to the various local government areas and beyond will be done with the full participation of all stakeholders, particularly agents of political parties and candidates, observers and the media in a transparent manner.”