With about 86 days to the 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has in the last four months lost five of its local government area offices to hoodlums, otherwise called “yet unknown persons” by the commission.
The commission stated that in the mindless attacks, a total of 1,993 ballot boxes, 399 voting cubicles, 22 electric power generators and thousands of uncollected PVCs were, among other materials, destroyed.
At the induction retreat in Lagos for the new Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) Wednesday, INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu also stated that “buildings have been destroyed and materials lost in Udenu and Igboeze North Local Areas of Enugu state, Abeokuta South Local Government of Ogun state, Ede South Local Government Area of Osun state and, most recently, in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi state.”
“In the last four months, five Local Government Area offices of the Commission were attacked by yet unknown persons. Buildings have been destroyed and materials lost in Udenu and Igboeze North Local Areas of Enugu state, Abeokuta South Local Government of Ogun state, Ede South Local Government Area of Osun state and, most recently, in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi state.
“In these mindless attacks, a total of 1,993 ballot boxes, 399 voting cubicles, 22 electric power generators and thousands of uncollected PVCs were, among other materials, destroyed. These attacks must stop and the perpetrators apprehended and prosecuted.”
Charges to RECs
Addressing the RECs, Yakubu said: “Our success ultimately depends on our integrity. We should remain independent and impartial. As I said on many occasions, the Commission is not a political party.
“It has no candidates in the forthcoming election. All political parties have equal standing before the commission. The choice belongs to Nigerian citizens i.e. the electorate. Our responsibility is to uphold the sanctity of the ballot-nothing more nothing less.”
‘No voter card, no voting’
The INEC boss corrected the erroneous impression that voters could vote in the coming election without voters’ card.
“First, is the misleading statement shared online that voters can vote on election day without the voter’s card. This is absolutely incorrect. For any person to vote in any election organised by the commission, he/she must be a registered voter issued with a PVC. The commission has consistently maintained the policy of “no PVC, no voting.
“Nothing has changed. It is a legal requirement and doing otherwise will be a violation of the law. I appeal to Nigerians to ignore any suggestion to the contrary. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 47(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that “a person intending to vote in an election shall present himself with his voter’s card to a Presiding Officer for accreditation at the Polling Unit in the constituency in which his name is registered.
“Therefore, the position of the law is clear. The PVC remains a mandatory requirement for voting during elections.”
‘We will recover from loss’
He reassured Nigerians that the commission would recover from these attacks while the lost materials would be replaced, adding however that “there is a limit to our ability to keep replacing wantonly destroyed materials with just 86 days to the general election.
“The security agencies, traditional and community leaders and all well-meaning Nigerians should continue to support the commission to stop the attacks. But the ultimate solution is arrest and prosecution so that vandals and arsonists do not feel that bad behaviour is an acceptable conduct in our country.”
Reps raise concern
Similarly, the House of Representatives also condemned the recurring attacks on INEC facilities and other federal government buildings across the country.
To this end, the House set up an Ad-hoc committee, under the leadership of Hon. Oluga Taiwo, to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the incessant inferno in INEC offices in different parts of the country, with a mandate to report its findings back within three weeks.
It also urged politicians to uphold and respect various peace accords signed by political parties and their candidates across the country, urging the police to enforce same, as well as avoid being partisan in the provision of security for politicians.
The resolutions were sequel to a motion sponsored Wednesday by Hon. Olarewaju Ibrahim Kunle, who said the frequent systemic arson and attacks on the personnel, offices and facilities of INEC were targeted at crippling the commission and scuttling the 2023 general elections.
According to the lawmaker, between February 2019 and May 2021, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) reported at least 41 arsons on INEC facilities in 14 states.
“On 10 November 2022 the INEC office in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State, was set ablaze by hoodlums with not less than 65000 uncollected PVCs razed down by the fire.
“In 2019, a single PVC was estimated to cost about N170, 000. 00 which may cost more for the commission to produce, alongside the main building, movable assets and facilities such as 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags, 8 electric power generators and 65,699 uncollected PVCs which were reportedly destroyed by unidentified persons at the Abeokuta South Local Government Office,” he said.
He expressed worry that on the same day, arsonists and thugs set ablaze the INEC building at Oke Iresi, Ede South Local Government of Osun state, stressing that if these systematically orchestrated attacks on personnel and facilities of INEC were not checked, the actions could disrupt the 2023 general elections.