• Yakubu: Our allegiance, and loyalty is to Nigerians
• INEC staff, and security operatives have questions to answer, says Ebonyi council chief
• Ebonyi to deploy security officers, Ebubeagu across INEC offices ahead of elections
Despite the repeated attacks on the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Commission has assured Nigerians that the frenzied attacks won’t deter it from conducting free, fair and credible polls in 2023.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave the assurance, yesterday, during the visit of the African Union (AU) Special Pre-Electoral Political Mission to the Commission in Abuja.
While expressing concern over the incessant attacks on its local government offices across the states, Yakubu said INEC would recover its losses.
Recall that within the space of three weeks, three attacks were carried out on INEC local government facilities in Ogun, Osun and Ebonyi states, with the latest occurring on Sunday.
Yakubu said: “In the three attacks, though there are no casualties, quite a number of the materials acquired and delivered for the 2023 elections have been lost.
“The good thing is that, so far, we can recover from all the losses, but it is a source of concern, which should not be allowed to continue.
“We will continue to engage security agencies to make sure our offices, personnel and facilities are protected ahead of the election. We may express some concern about the attack on these facilities but it will not deter the Commission from conducting the election as scheduled.
“I want to assure you that yes, we may suffer little hitches here and there but overall, the Commission is ready to proceed with the election in the manner that the law requires us to do, using the deployment of technology for the purpose of accreditation and uploading of polling units results.”
Also speaking in Lagos State yesterday, Yakubu, who was represented by INEC National Commissioner, Election and Party Monitoring Committee (EPMC), Sam Olumekun, at the induction retreat for administrative secretaries of the Commission, said it has reached assurances from security agencies to ensure a secured election. The retreat is sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
He said: “We all should be bothered that people keep attacking INEC facilities, but we have assurances from security agencies that they will secure the election and so we rely on that.”
Yakubu reiterated that the Commission’s allegiance is to the country, adding that its loyalty is to Nigerians who want free, credible and verifiable elections.
He warned staff of the Commission to be neutral and professional in their conduct in preparations for the election.
Yakubu also stated that the combination of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal have come to stay as a means of voter accreditation and transmission of election results.
He urged the electorate to familiarise themselves with the election technologies of INEC, adding that the deployment of technology in elections was to have better polls.
Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Olusegun Agbaje, said the improvement recorded in successive elections in the current dispensation and recent conduct of the off-season governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states raised the bar of election administration and management in the country with attendant positive perception of the voting public that their votes would count at the elections.
In his goodwill message, Mr Deryck Fritz, the Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP, said the peaceful transfer of power was inextricably linked to processes and outcomes that were accepted by the political actors, civil society and the populace at large.
“INEC, as the constitutionally mandated electoral management body, must be and also be seen to be the impartial and neutral arbiter of the electoral contest.
“In line with SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and strong institutions, UNDP continues to support inclusive, transparent and credible electoral processes for peaceful and cohesive societies,” he said.
MEANWHILE, the Chairman of Izzi Council of Ebonyi State, Steve Nwamkpa Emenike, yesterday expressed displeasure over the burning of the INEC office located within the council. Speaking with newsmen, he wondered why the deployment of security personnel to the office couldn’t avert the fire incident.
According to him, the INEC worker that locked up the Commission’s office without prior notice to the security agencies posted to secure the office, has questions to answer, as to who gave him such directive.
Emenike explained that it took about an hour before security agencies and sympathisers could gain access to the office, which was already on fire, adding that his office had ensured the mobilisation of security officials to the Commission’s office, days before the incident occurred.
“I got a distress call around 11:00a.m. on Sunday that INEC office in Izzi LGA was on fire. Before then, on Thursday, I learnt non-sensitive materials were brought to the INEC office and needed adequate security.
“We mobilised Ebubeagu, four mobile policemen and also directed the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) to mobilise more of his personnel. Consequently, they were mobilised for the security of that place.
“Before the incident occurred, the INEC worker in charge of the office locked the place on Saturday. We asked him when he was apprehended who he notified that he was locking the place because even the security officials couldn’t access the place.
“The INEC office is completely fenced and securely padlocked but on Sunday morning, the place was on fire.
“INEC should give more explanation as to their role because the place was completely locked. The staff locked up the place and left. Who carried out the attack on the INEC office? There was no gunshot, no intrusion, physical attack while the security men were seated down there.
“To me, the INEC worker is to make explanation and clarification concerning the incident. The policemen and other people who came to rescue the situation couldn’t gain access to the place, because it was locked and fully secured. The gate was padlocked.
The Ebonyi State government has vowed to deploy adequate security officers to INEC offices in its 13 councils to avert further acts of arson by suspected hoodlums.
The security consultant to the state government, Mr Stanley Okoro Emegha, made this known while speaking with newsmen in Abakaliki.