The recent attacks — which is fast becoming a trend — on facilities and offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) calls for serious concern. These attacks, if not urgently curbed, could undermine the processes of the 2023 presidential and gubernatorial elections in the country.
Recall that in recent weeks, INEC offices and facilities in Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, and Akwa Ibom were attacked by hoodlums suspected to be Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants. The hoodlums destroyed and set ablaze operational vehicles, election materials, other properties of the commission. These attacks have increased the insecurities experienced in the Southeast and South-South regions of the country.
Again, these attacks also pose a potential threat to citizens’ right to vote in the next general election. The commission’s chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, at an emergency meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in Abuja said the systematic attacks on its offices across the country may affect its plans ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“Surely, these attacks are no longer freak events but appear to be quite orchestrated and targeted at INEC,” Mr Yakubu said.
“Clearly, these acts of unjustifiable aggression may undermine the commission’s capacity to organise elections and dent the nation’s electoral process. The facilities of the commission are there to serve the local communities for the most fundamental aspect of democratic governance, which is elections.”
‘The Commission gave a breakdown of attacks on its facilities and offices across the country. Analysis of incidents released by the Commission showed it suffered 41 attacks in 14 states. A further breakdown of the attacks, revealed as follows, one bandit attack, one Boko Haram attack, 18 #EndSARS attacks, four post-election violence, six incidents as a result of elections thuggery and 11 attacks by unknown gunmen and hoodlums. 18 were cases of arson, 20 cases of vandalization, three cases of arson and vandalization.
In Akwa Ibom, at least 135 voting cubicles and 345 ballot boxes were burnt by gunmen.
The INEC office at Afaha, Ikot Ebak, headquarters of Essien Udium local council area was also burnt. Although no death or casualties were recorded, the attacks, however, are clearly orchestrated and targeted, aimed at incapacitating the Commission in conducting electoral activities. But, replacing the vandalised properties in the prevailing economic situation will entail the deployment of resources that otherwise would have been used for other purposes.
Also, targeting INEC and electoral materials that took time and enormous resources to procure cannot be justified. This obviously has a way of affecting adversely electoral services in the same communities.
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Information Nigeria calls on security agencies across the country to enhance their operation and be proactive in the discharge of their duties, especially in the Southeast and South-South regions of the country. Security agencies must make arrests, prosecute and bring perpetrators to book as Nigerians are interested in knowing these hoodlums and their sponsors. Doing these will redeem the already damaged image of the Nigeria Police force, and as well restore the confidence of Nigerians in the police mandate of protecting lives and property.
Citizens are interested in an in-depth investigation into these attacks and for perpetrators to be arrested and prosecuted as a deterrent to plans for any other attack. Failure to do these will enable this culture of impunity and create a violent climate for the elections.
We also call on South-East and South-South Governors and Chieftains to bridge the gap among warring factions in the region. The perpetrators must be made to understand that destroying public properties is not the way to air their grievances to the government.
An attack on INEC is an attack on democracy and the Nigerian State. That must not be allowed to continue.