By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
Following the recent attacks on facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu on Tuesday called an emergency meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) to find lasting solution to the attacks.
Yakubu, in the meeting which was held in Abuja, noted that the spate of arson and vandalisation targeting the Commission’s facilities and property which has been on the rise since the 2019 General Election, has become profoundly worrisome as it has now developed into a crisis.
Speaking on the series of attacks, he said that, “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 stated.
He further disclosed that these attacks are no longer freak events but appear to be quite orchestrated and targeted at INEC, adding that “these are acts of unjustifiable aggression which may undermine the Commission’s capacity to organise elections and dent the nation’s electoral process”.
He explained that 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 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 remarked.
While noting that the Commission will certainly work with the security agencies to deal with the perpetrators of these heinous crimes according to the law, he announced that a meeting with all the security agencies is being held on Monday 24th May 2021.
The INEC Chairman called 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. For this reason, I must put on record the fantastic partnership between the Commission and the communities we serve. These communities share with the Commission the commitment of improving electoral services to Nigerians.
“They have over the years supported the Commission during all electoral activities from CVR to the conduct of polls. Some of them actually donated the land on which some of our Local Government offices are built. Even in the recent events of arson and vandalisation, many of them have demonstrated exceptional willingness to support the Commission”, he said.
He noted that in the light of the current circumstances, the meeting with RECs, who lead INEC offices in the States, will take briefings from across the country on threats to INEC facilities and deliberate on how best to protect them, expressing the belief that they can dig deep and draw from the Commission’s long standing partnership with communities in this regard, in addition to depending on the invaluable support of the security agencies.
Prof. Yakubu noted that the challenges posed by these threats notwithstanding, INEC is still positive that it can find lasting solutions to the spate of attacks on its facilities, adding, however, that this must be done quickly to forestall disruptions to several upcoming electoral activities, particularly the CVR exercise which is planned to undertake continuously in 2,673 centres nationwide for a period of over one year involving thousands of INEC officials supported by security personnel.