Nigeria’s independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is worried by the serial fire attacks on its offices in some states, especially in the South-east zone, which have resulted in the destruction of buildings and vital election equipment.
The latest destruction took place in Enugu State on Thursday night, where INEC’s office in Udenu Local Government Area was set ablaze by hoodlums.
Following the series of attacks, the Commission resolved to convene an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) next week to discuss this disturbing trend.
The Commission is also convening an emergency meeting with all the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Wednesday 19th May 2021 in Abuja ahead of the meeting of the ICCES.
INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Publicity and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, remarked Friday: “The latest destruction of the Commission’s physical infrastructure and electoral facilities in Enugu State calls for an immediate review of the measures necessary to secure INEC’s assets across the states.”
Okoye, in a statement adds: “The spate of fire incidents involving the facilities of INEC in some states of the Federation had unfortunately persisted. This time around, it is Enugu State, where the Resident Electoral Commissioner for the state, Emeka Ononamadu, has reported that the INEC office in Udenu Local Government Area was set ablaze.
“The latest tragic incident occurred around 8.40pm on Thursday 13th May 2021. No casualties were reported. However, 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 contain the inferno. The Commission appreciates the intervention of the Fire Service. The attention of the Police has been drawn to this yet another very worrisome development for investigation.”
The INEC national commissioner said the attack in Udenu Local Government was the third incident involving INEC’s local government offices in three states, in less than two weeks.
“First, there was the destruction of the office in Essien Udim LGA of Akwa Ibom State on 2nd May 2021. This was followed by the fire at the Ohafia LGA office in Abia State on 9th May 2021.
“This is yet another setback to the Commission’s ongoing activities and preparations for upcoming electoral activities,” said Okoye.
Meanwhile, the Commission, Okoye said, is determined to continue to discharge its responsibly, including the conclusion of the expansion of voters’ access to polling units, resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), capacity-building activities, the review of the draft Strategic Plan 2022-2026, engagement with stakeholders, as well as all scheduled and pending elections.
At least, 19 offices of the Commission have been gutted by fire in the last two years, findings have revealed.
A breakdown of the fire incidents showed that the most affected states include Akwa Ibom (4); Abia (3); Anambra (2) and Imo (2).
Other states that witnessed fire incidents between February 2019 and May 2021 are Borno, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Kano, Ondo, Plateau and Rivers. Abuja was also affected.
It was learnt that while 11 offices were burnt by hoodlums, eight others were gutted by fire under mysterious circumstances or by electrical fault.
Chuks Okocha in Abuja