From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured voters that, despite the series of recent fire incidents on its facilities in the South East, it will continue to discharge its responsibilities, including the conduct of the scheduled November 6 Anambra State governorship election.
INEC gave the assurance in a statement signed by National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee Festus Okoye.
The Commission noted that although the Anambra inferno was devastating, it was however, fortunate that the Smart Card Readers from the shipping containers to the concrete store for enhanced protection were not consumed by the fire.
‘Although no lives were lost, these are clearly orchestrated and targeted attacks aimed at incapacitating the Commission in conducting electoral activities, especially in Anambra State,’ Okoye stated.
‘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.
‘In spite of these setbacks, the Commission is determined to continue to discharge its responsibilities including the conduct of the scheduled Anambra governorship election,’ INEC assured in the statement.
While giving further updates, the Commission noted: ‘The INEC met in emergency session today, Monday, as attacks on its facilities in some States of the federation continue unabated.
‘In the latest incidents, three offices of the Commission came under attack in Anambra, Imo and Enugu States. The Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) for Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji; his Imo State counterpart, Prof Francis Ezeonu, and that of Enugu State, Emeka Ononamadu, have reported that the attacks took place at various times on the night of Sunday, May 23, 2021.’
On the Anambra State incident, INEC confirmed that ‘the State Headquarters office in Awka was set ablaze in the most devastating onslaught on the Commission’s facilities so far. 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 November 6, 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, as part of the Commission’s proactive measures to ensure the success of the Governorship election later this year, about 50 per cent 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.
‘It will be 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. Fortunately, the Smart Card Readers were not affected,” the Commission noted in the statement.’
In Imo State, the Commission lamented that ‘also yesterday, our office in Ahiazu Mbaise LGA was attacked at about 6.45 pm in an obvious attempt to set the building ablaze.
‘Fortunately, the damage was limited to a section of the building, specifically the windows and part of the roof. No electoral materials or office equipment were destroyed.’
Reacting further on the spate of fire incidents in its offices in Enugu State, INEC noted: ‘At about 1:00 pm on Sunday, 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 May 13, 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,’ INEC noted in the statement.