By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that the orchestrated attacks on its facilities in some parts of the country may affect its capacity to organise the 2023 general election.
Such attacks, the Commission further said, is capable of denting the nation’s electoral process.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said these yesterday while speaking at a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) from 36 states of the country and Abuja,
Yakubu lamented that it would be difficult to replace these facilities in the face of prevailing economic circumstances in the country.
The INEC Chairman noted that the damaged facilities were not only limited to voting materials but also materials used for other critical electoral activities such as voter registration, the coordination of stakeholder engagements and voter education and sensitisation.
Prof Yakubu said, “Unfortunately, some events in the recent past have challenged the Commission and adversely affected our commitment to continue to improve the electoral process.
“The spate of arson and vandalisation targeting the Commission’s facilities and property has become profoundly worrisome.
“Unfortunately, this has been on the rise since the 2019 General Election 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 vandalisation 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”, he said.
Continuing, Prof Yakubu, “Surely, these attacks are no longer freak events but appear to be quite orchestrated and targeted at INEC.
“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,” he stated.
The INEC Chairman explained that the meeting with RECs, was to take briefings from them on threats to INEC facilities across the country and deliberate on how best to protect them.
He said, “I believe that we can dig deep and draw from the commission’s longstanding partnership with communities in this regard, in addition to depending on the invaluable support of our security agencies.
“Consequently, the challenges posed by these threats notwithstanding, we are still positive that we can find lasting solutions to the spate of attacks on our facilities.
“However, this must be done quickly to forestall disruptions to several upcoming electoral activities, particularly the CVR exercise which we plan to undertake continuously in 2,673 centres nationwide for a period of over one year involving thousands of INEC officials supported by security personnel,” he said.
The INEC Chairman, who disclosed that the commission would hold a meeting with all the security agencies on Monday next week, assured of the commission’s cooperation “with the security agencies to deal with the perpetrators of these heinous crimes according to the law.”
He called on the communities where INEC facilities are located, to see themselves as owners and custodians of these facilities and assist the commission in protecting them.