From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met on Thursday with security formations in the country, urging them to put an end continued attacks on its facilities nationwide.
The Commission warned that the attacks will disrupt the electoral process, undermine Nigerian democracy and destabilise the country.
INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu issued the warning in Abuja during the emergency meeting with the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
While lamenting that the last few weeks have been very challenging for the Commission, he noted that the spate of arson and vandalism targeting the Commission’s facilities and property has become a major threat to its scheduled activities and the entire electoral process.
He said that a preliminary assessment so far indicates that the Commossion has lost 1,105 ballot boxes, 694 voting cubicles, 429 electric generating sets and 13 utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux).
Yakubu, however, expressed confidence that by working together with the security agencies, the attacks and wanton destruction of critical electoral assets could be stopped.
‘No doubt, the last few weeks have been very challenging to the Commission. The spate of arson and vandalisation targeting the Commission’s facilities and property has become a major threat to our scheduled activities and the entire electoral process. In the last two years, the Commission has recorded a total of 41 incidents involving deliberate attacks on the Commission’s facilities,’ the INEC Chairman stated.
‘Nine of these incidents happened in 2019 and 21 cases in 2020. In the last four weeks, 11 offices of the Commission were either set ablaze or vandalised. Two of these incidents were caused by Boko Haram and Bandit attacks while 10 resulted from thuggery during election and post-election violence.
‘However, the majority of the attacks (29 out of 41) were unrelated to election or electoral activities. In fact, 18 of them occurred during the EndSARS protests in October last year while 11 attacks were organised by “unknown gunmen” and “hoodlums”.
‘Although the Commission is assessing loss of materials during recent attacks, our preliminary assessment so far indicate that we lost 1,105 ballot boxes, 694 voting cubicles, 429 electric generating sets and 13 utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux). By working together with the security agencies, we can stop these attacks and the wanton destruction of critical electoral assets.
‘These attacks, which initially appeared as isolated and occasional actions, have now become more frequent and systematic targeted at demobilising and dismantling critical electoral infrastructure in the country.
‘This will not only undermine the Commission’s capacity to organise elections and other electoral activities but will also damage the nation’s electoral process and democracy. Indeed, these attacks on the Commission’s facilities should now be treated as a national security emergency.
‘Under the auspices of ICCES, we should ramp up our activities to curtail these unjustifiable acts of aggression. This will entail not only drawing on our separate and collective resources within ICCES, but also increased collaboration with citizens, communities and all stakeholders. I must place on record the support to the Commission from communities we serve across the country.
‘Among many other things, they have donated land to locate many of the Commission’s facilities, provided voluntary assistance during electoral activities like registration of voters and even donated materials such as chairs and shelter during elections.
‘Even in the context of recent destruction of INEC facilities, some of these communities have offered to rebuild our offices and to help protect them going forward. We should tap into this goodwill in finding solutions to the present situation,’ Yakubu noted.
Speaking further, the Chairman said: ‘As a Commission, we have been undertaking our own internal review of the situation and seeking answers. Only last week, the Commission met with (RECs) and received briefings about these rising threats.
‘We are presently compiling the useful suggestions from the meeting and other internal review, which we hope to share with this body in due course.
‘I understand that the security agencies are doing their own individual assessments. Beyond Election Day security, we look forward to creating a framework for an all-year round, end-to-end protection of electoral facilities under the auspices of ICCES. To disrupt the electoral process is to undermine our democracy and destabilise the country.’
In his reaction, the National Security Adviser and Co-Chairman of ICCES, Babagana Mungono, charged key intelligence agencies to unravel those behind the attacks.