By Nathaniel Gana
20th May 2021
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has described the recent spate of attacks on the Commission by arsonists as acts of unjustifiable aggression that could undermine its capacity to organise elections.
Speaking at an emergency meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in Abuja on 19th May, Prof. Yakubu asserted that targeting the Commission’s facilities that were procured at enormous costs to serve the local communities could not be justified.
In an apparent reference to the events of the past three weeks, Prof. Yakubu admitted that the multiple attacks on INEC’s facilities and property since the 2019 General Election had become worrisome due to their frequency and pattern.
His words: “The spate of arson and vandalisation targeting the Commission’s facilities and property has become profoundly 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, 16th May 2021, our State office in Enugu State 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 18th May 2021, two more of our 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. Nothing has been salvaged, from ballot boxes and voting cubicles to generating sets and office furniture and equipment.”
According to him, the pattern of the attacks was enough evidence that they were no longer freak events but “quite orchestrated and targeted” at INEC. Replacing the destroyed facilities in the prevailing economic circumstances, he observed, “will be a tall order, thereby adversely affecting electoral services in the same communities.”
Prof. Yakubu said the facilities destroyed were 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 the Commission would work with the security agencies to deal with the perpetrators of “these heinous crimes” according to the law. For this reason, the Commission will meet with all security agencies next Monday, 24th May.
However, the INEC Chairman called on the communities where the assets are located to see themselves as owners and custodians of the facilities and assist the Commission in protecting them.
Despite the challenges posed by the recent events, Prof. Yakubu said, “we are positive that we can find lasting solutions to the spate of attacks on our facilities. However, this must be done quickly to forestall disruptions to several upcoming electoral activities, particularly the CVR exercise, which we plan to undertake continuously in 2,673 centres nationwide for a period of over one year involving thousands of INEC officials supported by security personnel.”
He praised various communities for their cordial relationship with the Commission and the assistance they provide. He said: “I must put on record the fantastic partnership between the Commission and the communities we serve.
“These communities share with the Commission the commitment of improving electoral services to Nigerians. They have over the years supported the Commission during all electoral activities, from CVR to the conduct of polls.
“Some of them actually donated the land on which some of our Local Government offices are built. Even in the recent events of arson and vandalisation, many of them have demonstrated exceptional willingness to support the Commission.
“For instance, following the vandalisation of our offices in Osun State during the #EndSARS protests in October last year, the Ikirun community in Ifelodun Local Government Area and two communities in Ede South Local Government Area have offered to contribute to the repairs of the offices and promised to work with the Commission to protect them in future.
“In the same vein, in Nnewi North in Anambra State, the community has also offered to repair our Local Government office destroyed during the #EndSARS protests.
“The Commission does not take such partnerships for granted. I wish to thank our host communities in all parts of the country and appeal to them to continue to see INEC property as both national and local assets to be protected.”
National Commissioner, Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Mu’azu (rtd) urged the RECs to be more proactive in putting the necessary measures in place to protect the Commission’s assets.
However, National Commissioner Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu wondered why those who carried out the attacks have not yet owned up as organised arsonists usually do. He expressed the hope that the security agencies would arrest and prosecute the culprits in due course.