The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Monday said that arsonists are plotting to incapacitate them, ahead of future elections.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, expressed concern after an emergency meeting in Abuja on Monday.
The meeting held hours after gunmen broke into its Head Office in Awka, Anambra State capital, which was set ablaze after a battle with Security Operatives.
In a statement, Okoye said that the Commission’s office in Igboeze South Local Government Area of Enugu State was also razed.
The statement reads: “The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, met in emergency session today, Monday 24th May 2021, as attacks on its facilities in some States of the Federation continue unabated.
“In the latest incidents, three offices of the Commission came under attack in Anambra, Imo and Enugu States. The Resident Electoral Commissioners, REC, for Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji; his Imo State counterpart, Professor Francis Ezeonu, and that of Enugu State, Emeka Ononamadu, have reported that the attacks took place at various times on the night of Sunday, 23rd May 2021.”
Okoye descibed the Anambra attack as a major blow to the preparation for the Governorship election scheduled for November 6 in the State.
He said: “The State Headquarters office in Awka was set ablaze in the most devastating onslaught on the Commission’s facilities so far.
“The attackers were systematic and selective in their targets. The Pavillion which serves as Collation Centre during major elections was burnt down. In what is a major blow to our preparations for the Governorship election scheduled for 6th November 2021, two stores housing electoral materials were burnt down.
“New and old (but serviceable) electric generating machines numbering 376 for all the Electoral Wards and the extra numbers for backup were completely burnt. The electric generators were recently relocated from the Local Government Area, LGAS, to the HQ in the belief that it is more secure than the LGA offices.
“Similarly, as part of the Commission’s proactive measures to ensure the success of the Governorship election later this year, about 50 percent of the non-sensitive materials required for the November 6, 20201 Governorship election already delivered to the State have also been lost in the fire. In addition, seven utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux) were burnt.
“It will be recalled that following the fire incident on the eve of the 2019 General Election in which the Smart Card Readers for the State were destroyed, the Commission moved the replacement Smart Card Readers from the shipping containers to the concrete store for enhanced protection. Fortunately, the Smart Card Readers were not affected.
“Also yesterday, our office in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area was attacked at about 6.45pm in an obvious attempt to set the building ablaze. Fortunately, the damage was limited to a section of the building, specifically the windows and part of the roof. No electoral materials or office equipment were destroyed.”
“At about 1.00pm yesterday, our Igboeze South LGA office was attacked. The store was completely burnt down before the Neighborhood Watch and the Enugu State Fire Service responded and prevented the inferno from razing other parts of the building.
“This is the third attack on INEC facilities in the State in less than two weeks following the destruction of our Udenu LGA office on 13th May 2021 and the State Headquarters building in Enugu on 16th May 2021.
“All three incidents in Anambra, Imo and Enugu have been reported to the Police for investigation.
“Although no lives were lost, these are clearly orchestrated and targeted attacks aimed at incapacitating the Commission in conducting electoral activities, especially in Anambra State.
“The attacks on the Commission’s facilities have now become a national emergency. Accordingly, the Commission will brief the Government and Stakeholders on these incidents.
“In spite of these setbacks, the Commission is determined to continue to discharge its responsibilities including the conduct of the scheduled Anambra Governorship election,” the statement read.