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  • 2023: Election crisis looms with attacks on INEC offices — YAKUBU, INEC chair
  • 2023: Election crisis looms with attacks on INEC offices — YAKUBU, INEC chair
    Voter Access: INEC commences nationwide verification of voting points
    Professor Mahmood Yakubu

    …Replacing burnt facilities in the prevailing economic circumstances’ll be a tall order, Yakubu lamentsl3 INEC offices burnt in 3 Ebonyi LGAs

    …We suspect APC – PDP

    …APC keeps mum

    … INEC’s alarm, a grand conspiracy – CSOs

    …Stop burning police stations, killing your brothers, AIG Zone 9 tells S-East stakeholders

    By Omeiza Ajayi, Peter Okutu, Dirisu Yakubu & Luminous Jannamike

    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.

    Spate of attacks worrying — INEC chair, Yakubu

    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.

    We’re suspicious of APC –  PDP

    Reacting to the development, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, expressed concern over what it called the silence of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the wake of the growing attacks on INEC offices.

    PDP image maker, Kola Ologbondiyan said the APC is playing the ostrich knowing that there is no way it would win elections “having been rejected by Nigerians.”

    He said: “We are worried as a political party that the APC is silent in spite of the various attacks on INEC offices and damages to electoral materials. We are very worried and we are suspicious that the APC having failed Nigerians and realizing that they cannot win subsequent elections are responsible for this chaos and are creating emergency situations to forestall conduct of subsequent elections.

    “We are worried that the Federal Government has not said anything even though over 20 INEC offices have so far been burnt. A government that is responsible for the protection of a democracy will not be silent. It should be concerned,” said Mr. Ologbondiyan.

    He called on well-meaning Nigerians to speak up, saying the regularity of the attacks shows that there is conspiracy to derail the nation’s democracy.

    INEC’s alarm over threat to undermine 2023 election, a grand conspiracy – CSOs

    Also, some Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, said that INEC’s alarm raised over alleged threats to the 2023 elections reeks of a grand conspiracy by some state actors to undermine the process.

    The convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo Dare-Atoye, in a chat with Vanguard, said since the government has been unwilling to deploy basic intelligence to unravel the root cause of the attacks and arrest the arsonists attacking INEC facilities, it would be difficult to absolve the state.

    His words: “There is a grand conspiracy to undermine the 2023 general elections either by some devious elements plotting to extend the stay of the current regime beyond 2023 or by some terrible agents of secessionists trying to make a statement or by those who want to occupy the South-East and undermine the zone, thinking the Biafra war is still on.

    READ ALSO: APC: Lawan, Govs, ministers, others to discuss party’s democracy at confab

    “Since the state is unwilling to deploy basic intelligence to unravel the root cause of these attacks and apprehend the perpetrators, it would be difficult to absolve the state.

    “What the current reality suggests to INEC is that it must now prioritise technology in terms of putting its structures and assets under security surveillance, HiTech CCTV Cameras and negotiate its own security outfits for the protection of electoral assets.

    “The volatile nature of the emerging situation in the country also indicates that we will not have the luxury of the usual multi-level collation of results, but we must now embark on electronic transmission of votes. I urge INEC to consult widely, including members of the civil society, to share knowledge and ideas.”

    Govt has run out of ideas to manage forthcoming elections — Centre for Liberty

    On his part, Adebayo Raphael, Co-Convener Centre for Liberty, said the rise in the attacks on INEC offices could be an indication that the government has run out of ideas to manage forthcoming elections.

    He said: “The rise in attacks is truly disturbing. To me, it seems there are two possibilities here: One is, some people are deliberately targeting INEC in order to weaken its capacity for coordinating and supervising the next cycle of elections.

    “The goal may probably be to ensure that the election does not hold on the set date which INEC has already announced, thereby forcing the umpire to reschedule the elections, and no doubt benefitting the selfish interest of some people who may be trying to maintain the power status quo, or dismantle it completely.

    “Two is, this may be a way for some interests to completely weaken the ability of the Nigerian state to function, and perhaps for it to exist at all. But the downside to this is that it may create an opportunity for elements with undemocratic intent, to swoop in and capture the state’s democratic institutions under the false pretense of salvaging the state. Whilst this may be an intent some people already nurture, these incidents of incendiary nature are certainly going to solidify the opportunity to make it a reality.

    “In any case, it is obvious the current regime has run out of effective ideas to manage the state, and it is only honorable that the state allows more capable hands to continue, else some other people might swoop in uninvited, and that will be bad for the Nigerian state, its democracy, or its ability to remain in existence.”

    Stop burning police stations, killing your brothers, AIG Zone 9 tells S-East stakeholders

    Meantime, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 9 headquarters, Umuahia, AIG Ene Okon, yesterday, charged stakeholders to discourage the killing of security agencies and burning of Police stations within the South-East region of the country.

    The AIG stated this during an interactive session with stakeholders including traditional rulers, the leadership of tricycle and Okada operators, youth organizations, Hotel associations in Ebonyi State at the International Conference Centre, Abakaliki.

    The Police boss who added that the funds earmarked for rebuilding police stations would have served in the execution of other forms of developmental projects in the region enjoined community leaders to synergize with security agencies to address the spate of insecurity in the country. His words: “We are here so that we can find out how Police can serve you better. This stakeholders’ meeting is basically for you. We want to serve you better. Ebonyi has been transformed unlike how it was many years ago.

    “In any agrarian society you must expect pockets of communal clashes. These criminals are operating within your community. They are your brothers and sisters. 80 per cent of policemen in the South-East are Igbo. When you kill a policeman, you have killed your brother.

    “It is your brother that you are killing in the Police. After killing your brother who will now police you? The money used in rebuilding police stations would have been used for other developmental projects. At the end of killing security operatives, criminals will turn around to kill you. Let’s maintain peace in our community.”

    Earlier, the state Commissioner of Police, CP Aliyu Garba, who welcomed the stakeholders to the interactive session explained that the Police will record more successes through collaboration with the people of the state. He assured that information released to the Police by members of the public will be handled with utmost confidentiality.

    Vanguard News Nigeria

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