Saturday, 4th February 2023
<To guardian.ng
Search
Breaking News:

65,699 PVCs burnt, fear heightens after twin attacks on INEC offices

By Seye Olumide, Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan), Charles Coffie Gyamfi (Abeokuta), Timothy Agbor (Osogbo), Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Sodiq Omolaoye and John Akubo (Abuja)
11 November 2022   |   4:30 am
A resurgence of arson targeted at public institutions, especially those critical to the successful conduct of the 2023 general elections, yesterday, raised fears of a volatile electioneering season as the country begins its countdown to the polls.

• INEC summons emergency security meeting today
• Ogun CP: INEC offices need increased security
• PDP, APC condemn attacks
• Gaya: Insecurity won’t affect election, census
• Elections can’t hold amid insecurity, secure Nigeria now, Bishop tells FG
• PDP restates commitment to violence-free poll despite attack on its rallies
• Election results cannot be influenced with BIVAS, INEC reiterates

A resurgence of arson targeted at public institutions, especially those critical to the successful conduct of the 2023 general elections, yesterday, raised fears of a volatile electioneering season as the country begins its countdown to the polls.

After a jolt from simultaneous attacks on its Osun and Ogun offices, yesterday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has summoned an emergency security meeting today with head of security agencies, who are members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), including the National Security Adviser (NSA), over recent attacks on its facilities to deliberate on the disturbing trend.

National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said that the meeting was triggered by the attacks on the Commission’s Local Government offices in Ogun and Osun.

He said: “The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ogun, Dr. Niyi Ijalaiye, reported that our office in Abeokuta South Council was attacked and set ablaze. The incident occurred around 1.15a.m. when some unidentified persons overpowered the security personnel on duty and set the entire building ablaze.

“The main building and all the Commission’s movable assets in the office were destroyed. They include 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags, eight electric power generators and 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

“Similarly, the REC for Osun, Dr. Mutiu Agboke, reported that our office in Ede South Council was attacked and set ablaze. The incident occurred in the early hours when some unidentified persons attacked the building and set a portion of it ablaze.

“Fortunately, the damage to our Ede South Council office was limited to a section of the building and only some furniture items were destroyed.

“The attention of the Nigeria Police Force and other security and safety agencies has been drawn to the incidents and they have commenced investigation.

“With just 106 days to the 2023 general elections when the Commission has commenced the movement of materials to our offices nationwide, these simultaneous attacks are very worrisome indeed.

“Similarly, the rising incidents of attacks on supporters of various political parties since the commencement of campaign barely two months ago and the use of hate and incendiary language by some politicians are extremely disturbing. Accordingly, the Commission has convened an emergency meeting of the ICCES for November 11, (today), to discuss the disturbing trend.”

A convoy of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, was reportedly attacked by hoodlums in Borno State on Wednesday. The PDP and ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have since traded blames over the incident.

Also, a rally by the former vice president in Kaduna last month was disrupted by thugs. With about three months to the next general elections, political violence seems to be on the increase with some recorded in parts of Zamfara and Lagos states, spreading fears about the safety of voters at the polls in 2023.

It was gathered that some hoodlums, numbering about eight, scaled the perimeter fence of INEC office at Iyana Mortuary in Abeokuta, jumped into the premises and set the INEC building on fire from the back.

After invading the premises, the hoodlums soaked loaves of bread with petrol and threw same into the building at different angles to light up the office.

It was further gathered that a security guard at the facility identified as Azeez Hamzat, made a distress call to the police around 1:00a.m. alerting them on the fire incident.

The police from Ibara division mobilised detectives to the scene and later contacted men of fire service in the state, who raced to the scene to put out the fire.

In Osun, it was gathered that the conference room of the office was mainly affected in the inferno. Early response of firemen from Osun State Fire Service to the incident was said to have restricted the fire to only the conference room.

It was further learnt that items like knife, slices of bread, a keg containing petrol and a fez cap were recovered from the scene of the fire, raising suspicion of arson.

The Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Lanre Bankole, has described the burnt INEC office as a case of arson and wake up call for the police to beef up security across the state. Bankole disclosed this while he was on inspection of the burnt office.

Others who came with the CP are Director, State Security Service (SSS), Femi Aaron; Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Niyi Ajibola and Amotekun Commander, Dave Akinremi.

Bankole, who described the incident as very sad and unfortunate, said “is no doubt strange to Ogun State and it is undoubtedly a wake up call. We shall surely get to the root of the matter. We shall also ensure that security is beefed up across the state.”

The Ogun INEC REC, Ijalaye, described the incident as very shocking, saying that the losses suffered is quite colossal. He added that his staff are still carrying out internal investigation to know the extent of damage.

OGUN State chapters of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, condemned in totality the attack unleashed on INEC offices in Ogun and Osun.

Speaking in a separate telephone conversations with The Guardian, State Chairman of Ogun PDP, Sikirulai Ogunlade and State Publicity Secretary of APC, Tunde Oladunjoye, described the incident as despicable, but said no amount of threat and intimidation could deter Nigerians from going to the polls next year to elect their desired candidates.

Ogunlade blamed the incident on poor security network in the country and in Ogun under the administration of Governor Dapo Abiodun. But Oladunjoye said some desperate politicians who were afraid of defeat in the coming polls were up to mischief.

The Presiding Bishop of Victory Life International Church and Chancellor, Dominion University, Ibadan, Bishop Victor Taiwo Adelakun, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to tackle security challenges bedeviling the country, expressing fears that it will be difficult to hold elections amid insecurity.

Adelakun, flanked by other principal officers of the university, including the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olajide Olorunnisola, said government must live up to its expectations, especially as the nation is preparing for election.

“Can elections be held in the midst of this insecurity? Absolutely no. So, I charge those who are at the helm of affairs to rise up to the occasion, especially our men and officers of various security agencies. With the cooperation and commitment of the executive and legislature at the federal level, it is possible. Nigeria can be safe.”

MEANWHILE, the Chairman Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, has given assurance that the insecurity ravaging the country will not affect the conduct of the general elections and the forthcoming census. He stated this while fielding questions from newsmen after presenting his committee’s report to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Gaya explained that INEC and National Population Commission (NPC) are separate agencies and the work of one would not affect the other.

“I believe all the units, the census division and INEC division are working independently. They can work together in such a way that there would not be interference. It doesn’t matter if the dates of both exercises are close. They are not doing census on the same day of election.

“On security, the Federal Government has promised on many occasions to provide adequate security during and after the elections. There is stability enough in over 95 per cent of the country to hold election. INEC will find a way to conduct election in areas that are prone to insecurity with additional security. I believe we will hold election in 2023.”

THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said on Thursday that despite attacks on its rallies, it remained committed to the peace accord it signed with the National Peace Committee in September.

Director of Strategic Communication in the PDP presidential campaign council, Dele Momodu, who disclosed this at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, said the PDP presidential candidate is a peaceful person who would not be provoked to breach the peace.

He also disclosed that the party would report the attacks to the Peace Committee and security authorities.

“On Wednesday, we were attacked in Borno State. We’ve been attacked in Kaduna and it’s so unfortunate because there was a peace accord that was signed by most of the presidential candidates.

“So, we plan to report formally to the security authorities, we plan to report to the Peace Committee because democracy is not by force, it is a game of choice. So if I choose to support my candidate, there shouldn’t be any problem about that,” Momodu said.

Speaking on the fidelity of the coming elections, INEC’s Head of Voter Education, Publicity, Gender and Civil Society in Oyo State, Mrs Rosemary Alaba Adeniyi, said no one can alter or influence the results of the 2023 polls.

She made the disclosure yesterday while speaking during an Inter-faith Peace Summit on 2023 General Elections organised by the Abrahamic Mission.

She said: “Why I said that it is not possible to alter the results is because of the game changer, which INEC has introduced into the electoral system, that is the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS). BIVAS is a key element that will make sure that the election is credible and the result is not altered.

“BIVAS will be used to do accreditation on the day of the election, to verify and authenticate the voter. After voting at the polling unit, the result will be entered into the result sheet, the result sheet will be snapped by the BIVAS, it will be transferred to the INEC result viewing portal where everyone can see the result. That is the reason I said that the result cannot be altered by anyone.”

The Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on February 25, next year while that of governorship and state Houses of Assembly will hold on March 11, 2023.