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Continuous attack on INEC’s offices may affect 2023 elections

By Idowu Abdullahi

Ahead of 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised concerns over continuous attacks on its facilities across Nigeria, saying the development may affect 2023 general elections and allow possible postponement if the arson continues.

It explained that with the commission suffering no fewer than 41 violent attacks in last two years, the chances of 2023 elections, and others before it holding were slim considering loss been recorded by the electoral umpire.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said that attacks on the commission’s facilities have affected the electoral body’s timetable with loss of instruments to arsons recorded across the country.

“No doubt, the last few weeks have been very challenging to the Commission. The spate of arson and vandalism targeting the Commission’s facilities and property has become a major threat to our scheduled activities and the entire electoral process.

“In the last two years, the Commission has recorded a total of 41 incidents involving deliberate attacks on the Commission’s facilities. Nine of these incidents happened in 2019 and 21 cases in 2020,” Yakubu said on Thursday in Abuja during the rescheduled emergency meeting of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security ICCES held at the INEC headquarters.

Continuing, he said, “in the last four weeks, 11 offices of the Commission were either set ablaze or vandalized. Two of these incidents were caused by Boko Haram and bandit attacks while 10 resulted from thuggery during election and post-election violence. However, the majority of the attacks (29 out of 41) were unrelated to election or electoral activities. In fact, 18 of them occurred during the EndSARS protests in October last year while 11 attacks were organised by “unknown gunmen” and ‘hoodlums’.

“Although the Commission is assessing loss of materials during recent attacks, our preliminary assessment so far indicates that we lost 1,105 ballot boxes, 694 voting cubicles, 429 electric generating sets, and 13 utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux). By working together with the security agencies, we can stop these attacks and the wanton destruction of critical electoral assets”.

Yakubu explained that the attacks, which initially appeared as isolated and occasional actions, have now become more frequent and systematic, targeted at demobilising and dismantling critical electoral infrastructure in the country.

“This will not only undermine the commission’s capacity to organise elections and other electoral activities but will also damage the nation’s electoral process and democracy. Indeed, these attacks on the Commission’s facilities should now be treated as a national security emergency.

“Under the auspices of ICCES, we should ramp up our activities to curtail these unjustifiable acts of aggression. This will entail not only drawing on our separate and collective resources within ICCES, but also increased collaboration with citizens, communities, and all stakeholders”, he stated.

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