Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State and its governorship candidate, Mr Eyitayo Jegede have called on the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmud Yakubu to probe the Thursday’s fire that razed a section of the INEC state headquarters in Akure.
Both Jegede and the PDP alleged that the fire incident was a ploy to rig the October 10 governorship election and cautioned INEC against any such plot.
The party in a statement by its publicity secretary, Mr. Kennedy Peretei, said it received with disappointment, the news that the fire that gutted the state INEC headquarters on Thursday night consumed a container bearing over 5000 card reader machines.
“Is INEC saying it does not have an internal mechanism to curtail fire outbreak in her office?” he queried. “Is the metal container bearing the over 5000 card reader machines connected to electricity? If so, was the electricity supply not put off after the official close of work at 5pm?
“Where were the security officers on duty at the time the fire started? Why was it that fire engulfed a container housing over 5000 card reader machines within few minutes?” he asked.
Also, Peretei warned that the people of the state should not be taken for granted by INEC by resorting to the use of manual device, as against the use of electronic card readers on election day.
His words “Indeed, we suspect collusion between some unscrupulous officials of the commission with some politicians to perfect the running plans to rig the October 10 governorship election. We do not want any politician, because of selfish political ambition, to take us back to the dark days of the 1983 political crisis that engulfed the old Ondo State.
“We are thus appealing to eminent Nigerians, the civil rights community and other international bodies to wade in and help prevent any move to subvert the will of the people in the coming Ondo governorship election.”
Also reacting to the incident, the governorship candidate of the party, Eyitayo Jegede said “We cannot rule out a foul play in the mysterious fire that razed the state INEC office; our fate is in the hands of God.
A statement by the Head, Media Research of the Jegede Campaign Organisation, Mr. Samuel Fasua, said, “For a while now, our main rival in this race has been in the eye of the storm over accusation that it was using loan assistance decoy to collect the pin codes in the Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) of drivers, artisans and other professionals across the state.
“Telephone SMS was sent to them through the Ondo State Entrepreneurship Agency, that they should submit the code numbers on their PVCs latest September 2, 2020; that the state government wanted to grant them loans to boost their businesses.”
Also, a group, Democracy Vigilance Network (DVN) has alerted the international community of alleged plans by the ruling APC and INEC to manipulate the October governorship election in the state.
According to the group, there is a grand plot to import manipulated card readers used during the last governorship election in Kogi election to Ondo State, and this was why genuine card readers were burnt in INEC’s Akure office.
In a statement signed by its national coordinator, Ben Olutomisin and made available to journalists in Akure, the state capital, on Friday, DVN stated that the perpetrators of the plot were, by their actions, planning to set Ondo State on fire.
The statement said: “The commission and APC want a modern-day, large-scale repeat of the 1983 riot in Ondo State. They are trying to foist a candidate already rejected by the people on them.
“The international community should be alerted about the likely aftermath of the plot. If they succeed in manipulating the electoral process in favour of a rejected candidate, they will have tested the resolve of the Ondo people and patriotic Nigerians.”
Also reacting, Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has described as unfortunate and worrisome the fire incident that destroyed 5,141 card reader machines at the Akure headquarters of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Akeredolu spoke during an on the spot assessment visit to the scene of the incident at the INEC office in Akure. “The unfortunate occurrence is disheartening and unwholesome. However, we want to assure INEC of our support as a government.
“I hope that the well-intended desire of the State Government to assist the electoral body at assuaging the effects of the incident will not be termed as compromising the integrity of INEC,” he said
Responding, Mr Rufus Akeju, the state INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), who appreciated the governor for his visit, said that the cause of the fire would be investigated.
He assured that the damage caused by the inferno was not so severe as to contemplate a postponement of the Oct. 10 governorship poll in the state.
“However, it is quite saddening that there was nothing to salvage in any of the two 40 feet container that housed the smart card readers,” Akeju said.