The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has said in the last two years, the Commission has recorded a total of 41 incidents involving deliberate attacks on the commission’s facilities.
This is even as the nation’s electoral body noted that these attacks 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.
The INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this while speaking during an emergency meeting with the security agencies under the auspices of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee On Election Security (ICCES) on Thursday in Abuja, said he believes in the capacity of the committee to ramp up its activities to curtail the unjustifiable acts of aggression against the Commission.
Yakubu told the committee that nine incidents of the attack on the commission happened in 2019 and 21 cases in 2020.
In the last four weeks, he said 11 offices of the commission were either set ablaze or vandalised.
Yakubu noted that two of these incidents were caused by Boko Haram and bandit attacks while 10 resulted from thuggery during election and post-election violence.
Although the commission was assessing the loss of materials during recent attacks, Yakubu said preliminary assessment so far indicates that INEC lost 1,105 ballot boxes, 694 voting cubicles, 429 electric generating sets, and 13 utility vehicles to the attacks.
The INEC helmsman said by working together with the security agencies, they can stop the attacks and the wanton destruction of critical electoral assets.
He said, “In the next nine months, two major elections will be conducted. 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.
“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 to elections, 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.”
He noted the attacks, which initially appeared as isolated and occasional actions, have now become more frequent and systematically targeted at demobilising and dismantling critical electoral infrastructure in the country.
Yakubu, therefore, said destruction of the commission’s facilities should be treated as a national security emergency.
“Under the auspices of ICCES, we should ramp up our activities to curtail these unjustifiable acts of aggression. This will entail not only drawing on our separate and collective resources within ICCES but also increased collaboration with citizens, communities, and all stakeholders.
“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,” he added.
As a commission, he said they have been undertaking their own internal review of the situation and seeking answers.
He said on Wednesday last week, the commission met with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and received briefings about the rising threats.
He continued: “We are presently compiling the useful suggestions from the meeting and other internal reviews, which we hope to share with this body in due course.
“I understand that the security agencies are doing their own individual assessments. Beyond Election Day security, we look forward to creating a framework for an all-year-round, end-to-end protection of electoral facilities under the auspices of ICCES.”
He noted that since the conclusion of the 2019 general election, the commission has been working with the security agencies and has so far conducted four end-of-tenure governorship elections and 28 out of 32 bye-elections.
“On this note, may I also extend our condolences to the Inspector-General of Police and other security agencies for the loss of their personnel on electoral duty, the most recent of which occurred during the Ekiti East State constituency bye-election on 20th March 2021.
“May God comfort their families as well as the families of voters who lost their lives during that election. The Commission has already indefinitely suspended the bye-election,” he added.
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