Unknown Gunmen Attack Another INEC Office in Imo State

Unknown Gunmen Attack Another INEC Office in Imo State

Sixty – five days to the 2023 general election, unknown gunmen struck again, hitting another facility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Izu local government area of Imo state. The hoodlums vandalised INEC office at Isu Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, the fourth attack in three weeks where the facility would

Sixty – five days to the 2023 general election, unknown gunmen struck again, hitting another facility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Izu local government area of Imo state.

The hoodlums vandalised INEC office at Isu Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, the fourth attack in three weeks where the facility would be attacked in the state, smashing windows, removing burglary proofs, though neither removing ballot boxes nor uncollected PVCs.

Mr. Festus Okoye,Esq. INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee confirmed this in statement in Abuja on Wednesday.

The hoodlums had earlier attacked INEC facilities in Orlu and Oru West LGA, as well as the State Headquarters in Owerri.

Mr. Okoye said that the state INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Sylvia Agu, reported the attack in the early hours of Tuesday, adding that eight windows were smashed and burglary proofs removed.

“Fortunately, the attackers could not access the building, movable and immovable equipment as well as other materials were not removed or vandalised,” he stressed.

“However, as a precautionary measure, critical materials such as ballot boxes and voting cubicles have been evacuated to another INEC facility for safe keeping.

“Similarly, all uncollected PVCs have been secured, while security will be deployed to ensure the continuous collection of the cards by registered voters in the same premises,” he said.

Okoye said that the incident had been reported to the police and other security agencies for necessary action.

Last Friday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and The Nigeria Police Force, two critical agencies in next year’s general elections , appeared before the House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating attacks on INEC assets across the country.

It was an opportunity for members of the House Committee to assess preparations for the elections.

INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu in his comprehensive presentation warned that the continued attacks on assets belonging to the electoral umpire could frustrate the 2023 general elections.

“The attacks have far-reaching implications on preparations for the general election. First, the facilities that are destroyed, especially offices, will take time to rebuild. They are not like items of procurement that you can procure off the shelf. So, an alternative arrangement has to be made. So, in some of the states, in addition to these malicious attacks, other matters that have arisen as a result of fire and flooding, we will have to make alternative arrangements by renting in some places we can find facilities to rent. In some of the remote areas, we may not find facilities to rent; so, we have to look for alternatives to the damaged facilities,”he lamented.

He said several materials lost will have to be replaced stressing that;” in the recent attacks, some of the PVCs, for instance, were lost. But for the PVCs, we have instructed our state offices to send the Voter Identification Numbers of the PVCs lost so that we can reprint. We can from our database quickly regenerate and reprint the cards so that citizens are not disenfranchised”.

“The commission and security agencies must also continue to provide safety around the facilities and this, as I said earlier, may be very challenging because the security agencies are also protecting all of us and other national assets. So, these attacks on our facilities are actually other challenges that our security agencies can do without. Now, we have to rebuild the facilities and our funds are overstretched by a number of factors. We cannot continue to replace and rebuild,” he stressed.

Prof. Yakubu said what was even more worrisome for INEC was the attack in the Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, which first took place on May 18, 2012.

His words: “We found the resources in our election project plan budget to rebuild the office and we did so. We rebuilt the office and our staff members moved in on Friday. That weekend, on Sunday, the office was burnt down again and there are five such offices nationwide where in spite of our best efforts, the facilities were attacked not once, but twice”.

In his presentation, the Inspector – General of Police, Usman Baba, fingered failed and frustrated politicians and other prominent personalities of being behind the recent attacks on the officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission in different parts of the country.

The IGP who was represented by the Deputy Inspector-General, Department of Operations, Dandaura Mustapha, noted that the Nigeria Police Force, being the lead agency in internal security and elections generally, was always at the receiving end, stating, “Whatever happens, it is the duty of the police to protect here and there”.

According to him, “the campaigns commenced and what we realised initially was inter and intra-party disputes. We realised that members of political parties were destroying billboards, posters and campaign offices in some parts of the states.

“We quickly alerted the commissioners of police in charge of the commands and gave them a clear directive that it is the right of every political party to go to all the nooks and crannies of society and campaign. It is a constitutional right, so on no account does a state governor or any state actor should prevent political parties from moving about to do their campaigns.

“We now come to the immediate attacks on INEC facilities. Of recent, the ones that took place in Osun and Ogun, then last week in Ebonyi, Imo and Enugu; it is a well known fact that in the South-East geopolitical zone, we have issues of secessionists – the IPOB and ESN. These groups are bent on stopping elections from taking place in the South-East. They have been attacking our personnel; they have been retrieving arms from members of the security agencies, not only the police but the military and other paramilitary organisations that are there. They have been doing it, especially now that the embargo on campaigns has been lifted.

“The election is approaching very fast and they are putting much pressure to see that this election does not hold in the South-East geopolitical zone.

“In the South-West, we equally have the pro-Yoruba secessionists that are equally bent on seceding and not allowing election to take place in their areas, hence the attack on INEC in Osun and Ogun of recent. Those ones are also sponsored by politicians and other stakeholders”, he stressed.

According to him, there is also the issue of failed and desperate politicians who are bent on stopping INEC from conducting the elections

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