Attacks on the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in some States of the Federation have continued unabated with the latest incidents involving three states.
Three offices of the Commission came under attack in Anambra, Imo and Enugu States at various times on the night of Sunday, 23rd May 2021, reports by the Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) for Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji; Imo State, Professor Francis Ezeonu, and that of Enugu State, Emeka Ononamadu disclosed.
In a statement on Monday, the National Commissioner & Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, explained that in Anambra State, the State Headquarters office in Awka was set ablaze in the most devastating onslaught on the Commission’s facilities so far.
According to him, “The attackers were systematic and selective in their targets. The Pavillion which serves as Collation Centre during major elections was burnt down. In what is a major blow to our preparations for the Governorship election scheduled for 6th November 2021, two stores housing electoral materials were burnt down.
“New and old (but serviceable) electric generating machines numbering 376 for all the Electoral Wards and the extra numbers for backup were completely burnt. The electric generators were recently relocated from the Local Government Areas (LGAs) to the State HQ in the belief that it is more secure than the LGA offices”.
Similarly, he noted that as part of the Commission’s proactive measures to ensure the success of the Governorship election later this year, about 50% of the non-sensitive materials required for the November 6, 2021 Governorship election already delivered to the State have also been lost in the fire, in addition, seven utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux) were burnt.
He recalled that following the fire incident on the eve of the 2019 General Election in which the Smart Card Readers for the State were destroyed, the Commission moved the replacement Smart Card Readers from the shipping containers to the concrete store for enhanced protection, adding that the Smart Card Readers were fortunately not affected.
Speaking on the Imo State attack, he said that the INEC office in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area was attacked at about 6.45pm in an obvious attempt to set the building ablaze, noting that the damage fortunately, was limited to a section of the building, specifically the windows and part of the roof, and no electoral materials or office equipment were destroyed.
For Enugu State, Okoye narrated that, “At about 1.00pm yesterday, our Igboeze South LGA office was attacked. The store was completely burnt down before the Neighborhood Watch and the Enugu State Fire Service responded and prevented the inferno from razing other parts of the building.
“This is the third attack on INEC facilities in the State in less than two weeks following the destruction of our Udenu LGA office on 13th May 2021 and the State Headquarters building in Enugu on 16th May 2021.
“All three incidents in Anambra, Imo and Enugu have been reported to the Police for investigation”, he said.
Okoye stated that although no lives were lost, the attacks are clearly orchestrated, targeted and aimed at incapacitating the Commission in conducting electoral activities, especially in Anambra State.
“The attacks on the Commission’s facilities have now become a national emergency, accordingly, the Commission will brief the Government and stakeholders on these incidents”, he said.
He emphasized that in spite of these setbacks, the Commission is determined to continue to discharge its responsibilities including the conduct of the scheduled Anambra Governorship election.