Burning of our assets threatens 2023 polls, says INEC chair — Nairalovers

By Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki; Okodili Ndidi, Abuja and Alao Abiodun

 

 

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu warned yesterday that the 2023 elections are threatened by destruction of the agency’s assets.

Attacks on offices of INEC and burning of election materials have been stepped up in the last two months especially in the Southsouth and Southeast states.

On Tuesday, two offices in the local government areas in Ebonyi State were attacked. Electoral materials were razed.

Governor David Umahi described the action of the arsonists as politically motivated.

Yakubu believes the attacks were no longer freak events but orchestrated.

“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.

At least 23 INEC offices have been torched this year.

INEC said in a statement: “On Tuesday, 18th May, 2021, two INEC offices in Ebonyi and Ezza North local government areas of Ebonyi State were attacked and burnt down by unidentified persons.”

The commission’s spokesperson in Ebonyi, Cornelius Ali, said power generating sets, voting cubicles and other materials were destroyed.

He expressed fears that the attack could jeopardise the continuous voter registration slated to begin next month.

INEC offices have also been burnt in Akwa Ibom (four), Abia (three) Anambra (two) and Imo (two).

Between February 2019 and May 2021, INEC offices in Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Ondo, Plateau, Rivers and Abuja were burnt.

Yakubu said replacing the facilities in the prevailing economic circumstances would be a tall order and derail electoral services in the affected areas.

He spoke during a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in Abuja.

“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.

“The spate of arson and vandalisation targeting the commission’s facilities and property have 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.

“On 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.”

On the latest Ebonyi attacks, Yakubu said: “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.

“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 sensitization.”

The INEC chief said the commission would work with the security agencies to deal with the perpetrators of “these heinous crimes according to the law”.

He said a meeting with all the security agencies would hold on Monday.

Yakubu urged communities to do more to protect INEC assets and praised those already doing so.

 

“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.

“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 to 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 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.

“For instance, following the vandalisation of our offices in Osun State during the #EndSARS protests in October last year, the Ikirun community in Ifelodun Local Government Area and two communities in Ede South Local Government Area have offered to contribute to the repairs of the offices and promised to work with the Commission to protect them in future.

“In the same vein, in Nnewi North in Anambra State, the community has also offered to repair our local government office destroyed during the #EndSARS protests. The commission does not take such partnerships for granted.

“I wish to thank our host communities in all parts of the country and appeal to them to continue to see INEC property as both national and local assets to be protected.”

 

Umahi: attacks politically motivated

Ebonyi Governor David Umahi said the attacks on security agencies and INEC facilities were politically motivated.

He spoke when he received the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 9, Etim Okon, in Abakaliki.

According to him, desperate politicians have hijacked the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) agitation.

The governor noted that his defection and the achievements prompted the opposition politicians to devise several means of killing security personnel and burning down government facilities.

Umahi condemned the setting ablaze of his filling station along Ogoja road and the attempted assassination of the publicity Secretary of the All Progressive Congress APC Ebonyi State, Mr Simbad Ogbuatu.

He called on security agencies to fish out the perpetrators.

 

Umahi said: “Let me condemn very seriously the killing of security agencies. I have said it severally; burning of police stations are very regrettable. Yesterday (Tuesday), INEC two offices in Ezza North and Ebonyi local government areas were burnt.

“A filling station that I owned before now was also burnt two days ago and there was also an attempted assassination of the Publicity Secretary of APC in Ebonyi.

“Let me say AIG that the nation Nigeria played into the hands of our restive youths because there were a number of demands they were making.

“There were agitations about the way the Southeast is being treated at the national level and when those are repeated, our people bought the impression that they are fighting for the welfare of our people.

“So the impression here is that we are not welcome here in Nigeria. It has given the governors a very serious task with regard to this.

“I am sure security agencies know this because it seems a number of people, especially those who are aggrieved with the government are tactically supporting them.

“Governors in Southeast believe in one Nigeria where fairness, equity, justice and fair play do take place. We do not want to secede as a people; we want to be treated nicely just like other regions and this is a fact.”

Okon said the Inspector General of Police at the weekend deployed four riot police units to Ebonyi in a bid to restore peace to the region.

He expressed regret over the increasing rate of kidnapping, killing of security personnel and burning of police stations and INEC offices.

He urged governors to call on the traditional rulers to talk to their subjects on the need to end such violent attacks.

 

Ebonyi govt queries chairmen over attacks

Ebonyi government condemned the attacks on the two INEC offices in the state.

Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Uchenna Orji, while briefing reporters on the outcome of the State Executive Council meeting, said the Council queried four government officials in the state over the attacks.

Those queried include the two local government area chairmen where the attacks occurred.

They are Nora Aloha (Ezza North) and Chinyere Nwogbaga (Ebonyi).

Others are Commissioner for Local government, Samuel Okoronkwo and Senior Special Adviser on Local Government Affairs, Enekwachi Akpa.

Orji said: “Exco did frown at the development and urged the security agencies to immediately wade into fish out perpetrators.

“Exco did frown at the government functionaries that would have helped in nipping the issue in the bud…

“Exco, therefore, directed that they be given query to explain why disciplinary actions will not be taken against them by the government for failing in their duties to take some proactive actions that would have nipped the situation in the bud.

“Exco did warn that every office holder must rise to his/her responsibilities, show diligence, show passion failing which disciplinary actions will also face such person.”

The commissioner, who announced a minor cabinet reshuffle, said the Principal Secretary to the Governor, Clement Nweke was made Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development while Chief of Staff to the Governor, Dr Queendaline Agwu would replace Nweke.

 

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