This month of May alone has seen a run of arson attacks on the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in three states. They are Akwa Ibom, Abia and Enugu. For this reason, the INEC has called an emergency meeting of its resident commissioners in the 36 states tomorrow, May 19, in Abuja. Mr. Festus Okoye, the commission’s information and voter education chairman, said in a statement that fire destroyed its Udenu local government area office in Obollo Afor, Enugu State, last Thursday. He described it as “another setback” to the INEC’s preparations for upcoming elections.
The commission’s office in Ohafia local government area of Abia State was also set ablaze by suspected hoodlums Sunday night, a week after the one in Essien Udim local government area of Akwa Ibom State, was razed.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Enugu State, Mr. Emeka Ononamadu, reported the attack in Udenu LGA was carried out at about 8.40 pm that Thursday. Luckily there were no fatalities, he said. He, however, said the office building was extensively damaged while electoral materials and office equipment were destroyed in spite of the best efforts of the Enugu State Fire Service to put out the fire.
Okoye described the fires as “very worrisome developments” which the police authorities have been asked to investigate. He said the attacks all came in less than two weeks. “First, there was the destruction of the office in Essien Udim LGA of Akwa Ibom State on May 2. That was followed by the fire at the Ohafia LGA office in Abia on May 9. This is yet another setback to the commission’s ongoing activities and preparations for upcoming electoral activities,” he said.
Okoye recalled that following the attack in Abia, the commission resolved to convene an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) this week to discuss the disturbing trend. He said the latest destruction of the commission’s physical infrastructure and electoral facilities in Enugu State called for an immediate review of measures necessary to secure INEC’s assets in the states.
We utterly condemn those attacks and their perpetrators. They couldn’t have been the handiwork of politicians, seeing that national polls are still a long way off. And elections are not imminent in any of the three states where the attacks happened.
Our strongest suspicion is that those behind the arson attacks on the INEC’s facilities are enemies of the Nigerian state, hellbent on wrecking its sovereignty. The banned secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is still very much active in two of the three states in which the arson attacks happened. It is very likely that it had moles in the INEC offices it chose to burn down. We strongly recommend that the commission carry out a thorough staff audit to fish out the black sheep within and do away with them.
Meanwhile, the INEC should take steps to physically secure its faculties nationwide. Unfortunately, the nation’s security forces, particularly the police, are too thinly spread out on the ground to be of much help to the commission that has offices at national, state and local levels. However, it can obtain insurance cover for its facilities anywhere they are. This way, insurance firms can help to underwrite the cost of reconstructing damaged physical structures.