By Dominic James
5th October 2021
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has affirmed the Commission’s determination to conduct the Anambra Governorship Election scheduled for 6th November 2021.
But he also expressed concerns about the increased spate of attacks orchestrated by hoodlums in the State in their bid to scuttle the election.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), held today at the INEC headquarters in Abuja, Prof. Yakubu observed that from the reports the Commission had received, the stated goal of many of the attackers was for the Anambra governorship election not to hold. He regretted that the security situation in the State had worsened since the last ICCES meeting held on 9th September 2021, with many lives lost and property destroyed.
“This is worrisome for the Commission,” he said. “We are deeply concerned that specific electoral facilities and materials could once more become targets of attack.”
Prof. Yakubu recalled that the Commission’s State Office in Awka was attacked in May, resulting in the destruction of all non-sensitive materials assembled for the governorship election. Besides, the store, collation centre and main office building were either totally or substantially damaged, in addition to the loss of several vehicles used for electoral activities.
He said: “Happily, we have almost fully recovered from that attack. The destroyed buildings have either been completely repaired or are nearing completion, and we have fully replaced the materials destroyed. This rapid recovery has only been possible because this is an off-season election. We have sourced some of these materials, such as the 326 electric generators and vehicles destroyed in the attack from the neighbouring states. However, should we again lose vital materials and facilities, the ongoing preparations will be adversely affected.”
The INEC Chairman said the Commission was particularly concerned about the safety of voters, election duty staff and security officials who have been variously targeted.
He said: “The thousands of young Nigerians that we intend to deploy for the election, most of themNational Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members and university students, need to be reassured of their personal safety. At the same time, deployment for the election will involve the movement of huge consignments of sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the 21 local government areas of the State, 326 Wards or Registration Areas and 5,720 Polling Units. That means over 6,000 locations need to be protected. If we add that to about 26,000 officials that will be deployed for the election, we begin to appreciate the magnitude of the challenges of securing the Anambra Governorship election, which is only 32 days from today.”
Prof. Yakubu also acknowledged the “enormous challenges” currently facing security agencies in Anambra, which “entail not only securing the electoral process but also enforcing law and order generally.” However, he regretted that security agents had become prime targets of the mindless attacks while carrying out their official duties.
To demonstrate the Commission’s resolve to proceed with the election, he said two more activities on the Timetable for the election would be implemented in the coming days. “The Register of Voters will be presented to political parties in Awka on Thursday 7th October 2021,” he said. “On the same day, the Commission will publish the final list of candidates for the election.”
He assured that the Commission would continue to work with security agencies, respected opinion leaders in the State and the National peace Committee to ensure that the hit-and-run attacks do not derail the electoral process.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd) reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to the protection of lives and property of all law-abiding citizens before, during and after the election.
Represented by Mr Sanusi Galadima, the NSA said the violent activities of “separatist groups” in the South East region constituted “a clear and present danger to the nation’s democratic process in the region.”
He affirmed that his office was working with relevant security and intelligence agencies towards arresting the ugly trend and other associated challenges in the region and beyond.
His words: “This determination of the Presidency has already been translated into action by the recent joint Military operation code-named “Golden Dawn” in the South East as well as other security operations across the country. This is in addition to the collaboration between the Federal and South-East Governors towards addressing the underlying socio-economic drivers of insecurity in the region.”