By Nathaniel Gana
Thursday 27th May 2021
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has recorded 41 incidents of deliberate attacks on its facilities in the last two years, nine of which happened in 2019, while 21 took place in 2020.
The Commission’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this at the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) held today at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, also affirmed that 11 more offices were either set ablaze or vandalised in the last four weeks.
“Two of these incidents,” he further explained, “were caused by Boko Haram and Bandit attacks, while 10 resulted from thuggery during election and post-election violence. However, majority of the attacks (29 out of 41) were unrelated to election or electoral activities. In fact, 18 of them occurred during the EndSARS protests in October last year while 11 attacks were organised by ‘unknown gunmen’ and ‘hoodlums’ “.
Prof. Yakubu said the spate of arson and vandalisation targeting the Commission’s facilities and property had become a significant threat to its scheduled activities and the entire electoral process.
He observed that the attacks, which initially appeared as isolated and occasional, have become more frequent and systematically targeted at demobilising and dismantling critical electoral infrastructure in the country.
He warned: “This will not only undermine the Commission’s capacity to organise elections and other electoral activities but will also damage the nation’s electoral process and democracy.”
He added: ‘Indeed, these attacks on the Commission’s facilities should now be treated as a national security emergency.”
Giving a breakdown of the extent of damage caused by the attacks, Prof. Yakubu said: “While the Commission is still assessing loss of materials during the attacks, our preliminary assessment so far indicate that we lost 1,105 ballot boxes, 694 voting cubicles, 429 electric generating sets and 13 utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux).”
He urged ICCES members to ramp up their activities to curtail the “unjustifiable acts of aggression. He added: “By working together with the security agencies, we can stop these attacks and the wanton destruction of critical electoral assets.”
According to him, the fresh approach will entail drawing on members’ separate and collective resources within the Committee and increased collaboration with citizens, communities, and all stakeholders.
On internal review of the situation, the INEC Chairman said the Commission received briefings from its Resident Electoral Commissioners on the rising threats last Wednesday. “We are presently compiling the useful suggestions from the meeting and another internal review, which we hope to share with this body (ICCES) in due course,” he said.
The need for urgent solutions to the constant attacks became imperative given the planned electoral activities spread over the next several months. Prof. Yakubu said two major elections would be conducted in the next nine months. His words: “The Anambra State Governorship election is scheduled to hold on 6th November 2021 to be followed by the end-of-tenure elections for 68 Area Council Constituencies in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) holding on 12th February 2022.”
He continued: “These major elections will be followed by the Ekiti and Osun State Governorship elections ahead of the 2023 General Election, which is just 632 days away.
“In addition, the Commission is also preparing for the resumption of the nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise on 28th June 2021 to enable Nigerians who have attained the age 18 years and those who did not register previously to do so.
“Similarly, registered voters who wish to change their voting locations and those who wish to correct their names and other details on their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) can do so. We plan to create 2,673 registration centres and deploy 5,346 officials for the exercise, along with expensive voter enrollment machines. All these activities require security, thereby adding to the urgency and importance of this meeting.”
Prof. Yakubu said that the Commission, working with the security agencies, has conducted four end-of-tenure Governorship elections and 28 out of 32 bye-elections.
Acknowledging stakeholders’ assistance to INEC, he said, “I must place on record the support to the Commission from communities we serve across the country. Among many other things, they have donated land to locate many of the Commission’s facilities, provided voluntary assistance during electoral activities like registration of voters and even donated materials such as chairs and shelter during elections. Even in the context of the recent destruction of INEC facilities, some of these communities have offered to rebuild our offices and to help protect them going forward. We should tap into this goodwill in finding solutions to the present situation.”
The Co-Chairman of ICCES and National Security Adviser (NSA), General Babagana Monguno (rtd), decried the role of non-state actors in what he described as an attempt to scuttle the democratic process. He, however, expressed the hope that the meeting would provide solutions to stem the tide of arson and destruction.
He said: “We are gathered here to look at means and ways of quickly stopping the rising spate of criminality, violence and destruction of the national efforts. The office of the NSA has always remained steadfast, resolute and unrelenting in supporting all the activities of INEC, as well as all agents of government who are compelled not only by statutory means to deal with anything that was started in 1999; we are at hand to make sure that the peoples’ will is sustained regardless of whatever happens, irrespective of any individual inclination.
“We are, of course, hampered by a lot of non-state actors who are determined to dislodge this effort. But I am hopeful that the outcome of this meeting will be very productive. We should be able to make some strides towards extinguishing whatever flames in the socio-political landscape “.
The NSA called on members of ICCES to redouble their efforts and cooperation to reverse the ugly trend. His words: “I want to encourage my colleagues in the intelligence community to please enhance the efforts of those operational elements that have been supporting our efforts”.
On his part, the Acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali baba, underscored the importance of security in the electoral process. He pledged the commitment of the Police towards securing the electoral space in the country.
Said he, “I sincerely pledge my commitment to collaborate with everyone that is here in policing the electoral process. I promise that all my state Commissioners of Police will liaise with the RECs to replicate what is happening at the Federal level so that it will be seamless from the federal level to the state level”.
Participants at the meeting include National Commissioners, Mohammed Kudu Haruna, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, AVM Tijani Mu’azu, Festus Okoye Esq., and May Agbamuche Mbu.
The Secretary to the Commission, Mrs Rose Anthony-Oriaran, the Chairman’s Technical Aides, Directors and other directing staff of the Commission were also at the meeting.