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Buhari orders clampdown on criminal gangs behind attack on INEC facilities

By Sodiq Omolaoye, Abuja 
12 November 2022   |   6:21 am
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed security agencies to descend on criminals responsible for attacks on facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari PHOTO: Twitter

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President Muhammadu Buhari has directed security agencies to descend on criminals responsible for attacks on facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The President also urged INEC to replicate the successes recorded during the governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun in the 2023 general election. 

This was as the Commission, for the umpteenth time, yesterday dismissed reports that it was planning to rig the 2023 elections by abandoning the direct and real-time electronic upload of polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal. 

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) at INEC Headquarters in Abuja, yesterday, the National Security Adviser (NSA) Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), said the President has through him given security agencies clear-cut instructions to deal with criminals whose aim is to scuttle the 2023 polls.

According to him, even members of the president’s party found wanting would not be spared. He said: “The security agencies have been given clear cut instructions to preempt and deal with any group or organisation or institution that decides to embark in what we consider a fundamental criminal enterprise. What matters is that every Nigerian is allowed to cast his vote and those votes must count. 

“I am aware of the fact that within a period of just one month from October 8, to November 9, we have had 52 cases of violence across 22 states of the federation. This is a bad signal. This is something that we do not want to continue. This is something that’s going to result in a lot of complications. 

“We are all aware of the fact that the President, as far as he is concerned, is committed to upholding and safeguarding democracy. This is what the people want. The President has also given his directives, through me, to all the operational intelligence and law enforcement agencies to ensure that the 2023 elections are held in an atmosphere devoid of rancour. 

“The President is extremely pleased with the outcome of the results in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States. And he wants a repeat of such performance and manifestation of triumph over any obstacle that might dismantle the democracy we are trying to protect.

“Those people who have gangsters working for them, I want to send a very, very clear warning, a categorical and unequivocal warning to each and every one, regardless of whichever political party, including the party of the President, for as long as you decide to scuttle the electoral process, the law enforcement agencies will equally be uninhibited in reacting to whatever actions you have taken.

“You will be visited with appropriate and commensurate response. I want to assure you, and I’m saying this with all sincerity, so those people who feel they have had a history of organising and controlling groups that have an inclination for excessive, immoderate and inordinate behaviour, I want to send this warning to you, please, re-evaluate whatever contemplation you have been making.

“There will be no excuse whatsoever. So, if you think you can stretch security agencies, I think you are making a mistake. You need to reconsider your position. Nobody is going to take any excuse because the security agencies have been directed to behave in the same manner. I think a word is enough for the wise.”

Speaking, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who expressed concern over the attacks on the Commission’s facilities, however, declared that all attempts to sabotage or weaken the Commission’s resolve to conduct transparent elections would fail. 

He suggested that the attacks on the Commission’s local council offices in Abeokuta South in Ogun State and Ede South in Osun State might not be isolated. 

Noting that about 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) were lost in the attack, he gave the assurance that the burnt PVCs would be reprinted, adding that no “affected registered voters in Abeokuta South will be disenfranchised as a result of this dastardly act.”

Speaking on the increasing violence during the ongoing campaigns and rallies, Yakubu disclosed that the Commission has so far tracked 50 incidents across 21 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. 

“These unhappy occurrences are coming just a little over one month into the election campaign, which is scheduled to last for about five months from September 28, 2022 to February 23, 2023, for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and from October 12, 2022 to March 11, 2023 for State elections (Governorship and Houses of Assembly).

“The Commission is worried that if no urgent and decisive steps are taken, the attacks will intensify as we approach the election date. As we all know, a peaceful campaign heralds a peaceful election. We need to take decisive steps to stem the ugly trend,” the INEC boss stated. 

Also, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba Akali, said those attacking INEC facilities were planning to sabotage the 2023 poll. He said the police have also received reports of incidents of rallies, campaigns and processions stopped violently. He, however, disclosed that arrests had been made and some suspects charged to court. 

“Elections security is to be monitored collectively by all of us. Therefore, we need to extend our synergy and corporation even in the campaign period. We don’t need to wait until voting day because from what we have observed, even the rallies and campaign are marred by violence. With the incidences so far, arrest had been made and investigation had been conducted, and some suspects had been charged to court. My prayer is quick dispensation of justice.”

Meanwhile, INEC has insisted that both the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and IReV have come to stay. National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye gave the clarification in a statement.  

He said: “Our attention has been drawn to reports in a section of the media of alleged plans by the Commission to rig the 2023 General Election by abandoning the direct and real-time electronic upload of polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal by the Registration Area Technical Support Staff (RATECHSS).

“The claim is patently false. The Commission has repeatedly reassured Nigerians that it will transmit results directly from the polling units as we witnessed in Ekiti and Osun State governorship elections and 103 more constituencies where off-cycle governorship/FCT Area Council elections and bye-elections were held since August 2020. 

“The results can still be viewed on the portal. The IReV is one of the innovations introduced by the Commission to ensure the integrity and credibility of election results in Nigeria. 

“It is therefore inconceivable that the Commission will turn around and undermine its own innovations.

“The public is advised to ignore the reports. The BVAS and IReV have come to stay for voter accreditation and uploading of polling unit results in real-time in Nigeria.”

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