Attack on INEC Offices: 2023 Election crisis looms — YAKUBU, INEC chair raises alarm
May 20, 2021
THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has again decried the continued attacks on its offices in some parts of the country, fearing that the spate of arson has degenerated to a crisis capable of derailing its preparations for the 2023 general elections.
INEC spoke on a day three of its offices in Ebonyi, Ezza North and Izzi local government areas of Ebonyi State were set ablaze by arsonists.
Burning of INEC offices elicited sharp reactions from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and some civil society organisations. While the PDP said it is suspicious of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, the CSOs decried the government’s alleged silence and feared that a grand conspiracy might be afoot to harm the 2023 polls and the nation’s democracy.
The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, at press time yesterday was yet to react.
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, spoke yesterday in Abuja at an emergency meeting with the commission’s state Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs.
According to Yakubu, some events in the recent past have challenged the Commission and adversely affected its commitment to improving the electoral process.
His words: “The spate of arson and vandalism targeting the Commission’s facilities and property has become profoundly worrisome.
“Surely, these attacks are no longer freak events but appear to be quite orchestrated and targeted at INEC. Clearly, these are acts of unjustifiable aggression which may undermine the Commission’s capacity to organise elections and dent the nation’s electoral process.”
Yakubu added that unfortunately it has been on the rise since the 2019 general elections “but has now developed into a crisis.”
“In the last three weeks or so, three of our local government offices in Essien Udim in Akwa Ibom State, Ohafia in Abia State and Udenu in Enugu State have been set ablaze by unidentified persons.
“Last Sunday, 16th May 2021, our state office in Enugu suffered yet another arson and vandalism in which parts of the building were ransacked and several vehicles razed. And more of our facilities are being systematically targeted and attacked. Just last night, Tuesday 18th May 2021, two more offices in Ebonyi and Ezza North Local Government Areas of Ebonyi State were burnt down.
“Although there were no casualties, the damage to the physical infrastructure and electoral materials was total. Nothing has been salvaged from ballot boxes and voting cubicles to generating sets and office furniture and equipment.
“The facilities of the Commission are there to serve the local communities for the most fundamental aspect of democratic governance, which is elections. Therefore, targeting such important national assets and repositories of electoral materials that took time and enormous resources to procure cannot be justified.
Replacing burnt facilities’ll be tough’
“Replacing these facilities in the prevailing economic circumstances will indeed be a tall order, thereby adversely affecting electoral services in the same communities. These facilities are not only limited to voting but also used for other critical electoral activities such as voter registration, the coordination of stakeholder engagements and voter education and sensitisation,” he added.
According to the INEC chairman, the commission will certainly work with the security agencies to deal with the perpetrators of these heinous crimes according to the law.
“To this end, a meeting with all the security agencies is holding on Monday 24th May 2021.
However, it has become imperative to call on all and sundry, particularly communities where these assets are located, to see themselves as owners and custodians of these facilities and assist the Commission in protecting them. I am glad that some of them are already doing so.”
According to him, the attacks must be stopped urgently to forestall disruptions to several upcoming electoral activities, particularly the Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, exercise which INEC plans to undertake continuously in 2,673 centres nationwide for a period of over one year. What is left is to finalise the newly established Polling Units in order to update our registration software to make them available to registrants.”
How 3 INEC offices in Ebonyi were set ablaze
INEC announced the burning of its offices in Ebonyi on Tuesday night through its Twitter handle.
The tweet read: “Last night, Tuesday 18th May 2021, two INEC offices in Ebonyi and Ezza North Local Government Areas of Ebonyi State were burnt down by unidentified persons. No casualties but extensive damages to the building and facilities.”
Vanguard learned that sensitive documents and other valuables worth millions of naira were reportedly burnt to ashes by the criminals.
This development is the latest in a series of attacks on offices of the electoral body across the country, especially in the South-East region.
The attacks came about 24 hours after the INEC management held an emergency security meeting with all security agencies to curb the burning of its offices across the country.
At least 25 offices of INEC have been gutted by fire in the last two years, including incidences in Akwa Ibom (four); Abia (three); Anambra (two) and Imo (two). Confirming the destruction of the three INEC offices in Ebonyi, the State Public Relations Officer of INEC, Mr. Ali Cornelius Sunday said he received calls from electoral officers about the destruction that took place in their LGAs.
According to him, the incident has been reported to the Ebonyi Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC and security agencies in the state for further action.
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