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Stop the attacks on INEC

On November 10, 2022, the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ogun and Osun states were burnt down by yet-to-be-identified hoodlums. This…

On November 10, 2022, the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ogun and Osun states were burnt down by yet-to-be-identified hoodlums. This led to the loss of materials needed for next year’s elections. In the Ogun State arson, 904 election boxes and 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones and 57 election bags, three electric power generators were burnt.

These targeted attacks at the commission’s critical infrastructure are clearly aimed at crippling the electoral umpire’s operations ahead of the elections.

These attacks became a phenomenon in the last three years. For example, in 2019, hoodlums attacked INEC offices in Rivers, Abia, Plateau, Anambra, Osun, Akwa Ibom and Jigawa states. In 2020, there were four of such attacks in Anambra, Imo, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Ondo.

In 2021, the attacks were carried out on INEC facilities in Akwa Ibom, Abia and twice in Enugu and Ebonyi states respectively.

This year alone, such attacks have been carried out with devastating effects in Zamfara and Enugu states. The last were the ones in Ogun and Osun, perpetuated on November 10, 2022.

And the cost of the attacks to INEC has been huge. For example, in the February 12, 2019 mysterious fire incident at the INEC headquarters, Awka, Anambra State, a two-container load of 4,695 smart card readers were destroyed along with other sensitive materials.

In the fire incident of May 2, 2021 at the Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, some 345 ballot boxes, 135 voting cubicles, megaphones, water tanks and office furniture were razed.

Rattled by the twin attacks on Ogun and Osun states, INEC Chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, held an emergency meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) the next day after the incident.

And in a move to reassure and protect INEC facilities and assets ahead of the 2023 election, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, convened a meeting with chairmen of leading political parties at the force headquarters, Abuja, on Thursday last week. Other participants at the meeting include the National INEC Commissioner, Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar; Chief of Defence Intelligence, Major General Samuel Adebayo and representatives of Department of State Services and other paramilitary agencies.

Baba declared at the meeting that to stop the orgy of burning of INEC offices, the federal government had deployed personnel of Armed Forces of Nigeria, DSS, Nigerian Civil and Security Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Federal Fire Service personnel to INEC offices nationwide.

He added that it had also directed the security services to enhance intelligence gathering, sharing and utilisation of the same to stem acts of political violence which have assumed an increasing dimension in recent weeks. We, at Daily Trust, condemn in totality the attacks on INEC offices and all other public infrastructure. It is indeed mind-boggling that citizens would deliberately destroy infrastructures that have been erected for the good of all. The particular attacks on INEC offices during which PVCs and other documents are burnt do not serve anyone. If anything, they take the country backwards. In fact it is an attack on democracy. And citizens must understand that money used to rebuild the burnt buildings could have been channelled into other areas that would have impacted positively on the people.  

We warn youths who may be pushed into such acts by desperate politicians to note that they are only being used and should desist from it.  They should note that those behind the attacks are only after personal interest; not that of the country.  

We commend INEC and the security forces for taking steps to address this issue. But examples must be made of some persons for it to stop. It is indeed surprising that none of the perpetrators of the past attacks on INEC offices has been caught, not to talk of being persecuted.

President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly pledged to conduct free and credible elections in 2023, promising in his last Independence Day broadcast to “bequeath a sustainable democratic culture which will remain lasting.” Surely, the first thing towards this is to secure INEC facilities and staff.

The security agencies must accelerate investigations into the attacks and all perpetrators must be brought to book. Political parties must warn their supporters and members to be of good behaviour and eschew all forms of electoral violence.

Attacks on INEC facilities and staff portend serious danger to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. They are definitely heinous crimes against the Nigerian nation and the political aspirations of the people. It must stop.