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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Attacks on INEC Facilities

AS the 2023 general elections draw near, there are various reasons for anxiety concerning the conduct of the polls. Central to these apprehensions are approval and release of required funds, violent bahaviours by politicians and their supporters, as well as the palpable security threats occasioned by the activities of bandits and terrorists. Far above the foregoing, however, are the perennial attacks on the staff and facilities of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) across the country, particularly sustainably in southeastern Nigeria where the Commission staff on assignment were assaulted, killed and voters’ registration exercises disrupted. The victimhood of INEC is analogous to a deliberate attempt to emasculate a messenger to forestall delivery of his message.

STATISTICS shows that 41 offices of INEC were attacked in two years, with many of these happening in the southeast. However, the almost simultaneous attacks on INEC facilities in Ogun and Osun states recently were not only worrisome but reinforce the need for deliberate efforts to be made to arrest and reverse the negative trend. Reports had it that the attack on the INEC office in Abeokuta South Council area led to the building being set ablaze, with the destruction of the Commission’s movable assets in the office, which included 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags, 8 electric-power generators and 65, 699 uncollected voter cards destroyed.

INCIDENTALLY, the attack on INEC office in Ede South Council area of Osun State, which was also set ablaze, precipitated limited damage to a section of the building, with some furniture items affected. These twin attacks happened 106 days to the general elections when the Commission was said to have started moving materials to his offices nationwide, fuelling suspicions that some elements might be out to scuttle the smooth conduct of the general elections that INEC has repeatedly promised to achieve.

WE believe that while waiting for the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to be unmasked, one is tempted to unreservedly suspect the political class for these arsons, given their past records, and as they remain the critical stakeholders and beneficiaries attendant to political shenanigans. Little wonder that the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, challenged everyone to rise to the occasion of the attacks, noting that “the political class plays perhaps the most critical role in ensuring peaceful elections”.

THE HOPE commends the emergency meeting the INEC Chairman had with members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, which was held to review the nebulous attacks on the Commission’s facilities. Membership of this Committee includes the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno; the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkahi Baba; Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi; and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.

IT was instructive that the Committee, through the NSA, noted that there had been 52 cases of violence across the country since the commencement of political campaigns the past one month, which he described as a ‘bad omen’ that must be decisively dealt with. The NSA was also quoted to have reiterated the commitment of President Buhari to ensure free and fair conduct of the 2023 elections, and achieve a smooth transition of power, with a clear directive to security agencies to deal decisively with any group or individuals fomenting troubles, including members of the ruling APC. The consultative meeting similarly afforded the Inspector General of Police the opportunity to confirm that some arrests were made in connection with the attacks, with investigation ongoing and hoping that justice would be swiftly dispensed, to serve as deterrent.                          

THE HOPE is unequivocal that these attacks are consequential further financial strains on the scarce public resources from where funds are released to INEC. Apart from the economic losses, we are also of the opinion that these attacks are a big threat to the forthcoming general elections, as it could precipitate anxiety among Nigerians and apathy amongst voters, with mistrust between citizens and the Commission, capable of engendering constitutional problems through aborted elections.

AS one wonders why it is difficult for security agencies to arrest the perpetrators of these attacks, who are no ghosts, we must also remind ourselves of the concerns INEC has expressed about the humongous financial burdens imposed by litigations arising from political party primaries, for which it is a party. Apart from the funding requirements these cases impose on INEC, that these litigations are distractions to the Commission is to say the least. Arguably, an encumbered Commission would be substantially hampered in delivering on its mandate of a credible poll.    

BASED on our strong conviction that the motives behind the attacks are to undermine the 2023 general elections and the transition of power, The Hope calls on the federal government to match its assurances of ensuring credible elections in 2023 with concrete actions by taking decisive steps to not only arrest the perpetrators, as hinted by the IGP, but unmask the masterminds of the attacks, apprehend them and cause them to face the full weight of the law, thereby preventing the palpable intended derailment of the transition process. It is also imperative that the security of INEC staff and facilities should be enhanced across the country, as we approach the general elections.

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