By Salim Yunusa
The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said the series of attacks on the commission’s facilities may undermine its capacity to organise the 2023 general elections.
He added that the trend, if not checked, would negatively impact on the nation’s electoral processes.
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Yakubu stated this on Wednesday during an emergency meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, over the burning of some of the commission’s offices in parts of the country.
He said some events in the recent past have challenged the commission and adversely affected its commitment to continue to improve on the electoral process, adding that the spate of arson and vandalisation targeting the commission’s facilities and property has become worrisome.
“Unfortunately, this has been on the rise since the 2019 general election but has now developed into a crisis. In the last three weeks or so, three of our local government offices in Essien Udim in Akwa Ibom State, Ohafia in Abia State, and Udenu in Enugu State, have been set ablaze by unidentified persons.
“Last Sunday, 16 May, 2021, our state office in Enugu suffered yet another arson and vandalisation in which parts of the building were ransacked and several vehicles razed. And more of our facilities are being systematically targeted and attacked.
“Just last night, Tuesday, 18 May, 2021, two more offices in Ebonyi and Ezza North local government areas of Ebonyi State were burnt down. Although there were no casualties, the damage to the physical infrastructure and electoral materials was total,” he said.
The INEC helmsman lamented that nothing has been salvaged from the attacks from ballot boxes and voting cubicles to generating sets and office furniture and equipment.
“The facilities of the commission are there to serve the local communities for the most fundamental aspect of democratic governance, which is elections. Therefore, targeting such important national assets and repositories of electoral materials that took time and enormous resources to procure cannot be justified.
“Replacing these facilities in the prevailing economic circumstances will indeed be a tall order, thereby adversely affecting electoral services in the same communities. These facilities are not only limited to voting but also used for other critical electoral activities such as voter registration, the coordination of stakeholder engagements and voter education and sensitisation,” he said.
He pledged that INEC will work with the security agencies to deal with the perpetrators of these heinous crimes in line with the provisions of the law.
He also announced that a meeting between INEC and security agencies would be held on Monday.
He, however, said that it has become imperative to call on all and sundry, particularly communities where these assets are located, to see themselves as owners and custodians of these facilities and assist the commission in protecting them.
Yakubu announced that the commission had established an Election Project Plan (EPP) committee to work on the 2023 general election plan, explaining that the idea is to complete the plan early enough and ensure that INEC was ready for the election