Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has vowed to unravel the circumstances that resulted in the fire incident that gutted an annex of its headquarters in Abuja on Friday morning, assuring however that the damage was very minimal. But for the intervention of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Fire Service, the headquarters of the electoral umpire would have been reduced to rubbles by the fire that completely razed the building housing the Election and Party Monitoring Department and the Media Centre before it was extinguished.
Only recently, fire outbreaks have continued to wreak havoc following such incidences at the Accountant General office popularly called Treasury House and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) all located in the FCT. However, reacting to the incident while speaking to newsmen, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, blamed the fire on electrical surge, assuring that there was however no cause for alarm.
“Some of our critical staff in the office, noticed that fire had started from the office of the Director of Election and Party Monitoring,” he explained, adding: “They rushed off and alerted the fire service, but our own internal firemen had responded before the arrival of the Fire Service and they were able to put off the fire. It started around 11.30am and you could see that it did not get to the main building of the headquarters. The main building is intact.”
While quantifying the damage, Okoye said: “We lost some of our photocopiers, computers and documents relating to political party activities. But, they are mostly correspondences, constitutions, manifestos and files relating to political parties. The critical documents relating to our activities with the political parties were not affected because they have been moved out even before the incident. There is no cause for alarm.”
On the cause of the fire outbreak, he said: “The fire service people are here and have carried out some preliminary investigations and it has something to do with an electrical challenge. Only on Thursday this week, the secretary of the Commission issued a circular and directive to all our offices including the National headquarters relating to electrical issues and ensuring that all our facilities are safe.”
Asked if the political parties should entertain any fear, the President Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Peter Ameh said: “I don’t think that at this level, with the 21st century Information Technology Unit (ITU) policy that INEC has make the mistake of not backing up any document.