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INEC casts 2023 election doubt after gunmen set Akwa Ibom office ablaze

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cast doubt on the date set for the 2023 general election after gunmen, during an attack, set ablaze its office in Essien Udim Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom State.

INEC said that the effect of different attacks on its facilities across the country has started causing a setback on the possibilities of organising the 2023 general elections earlier fixed for Saturday, February 18 of the same year.

The electoral umpire noted that the attack on Sunday resulted in the destruction of the non-sensitive materials that were recently deployed to its office in the council in readiness for the poll.

A possible change in the date of the poll was announced by National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in the statement issued after the attack on the commission’s facility.

Okoye said: “It will be recalled that on the eve of the 2019 General Election, our newly constructed prototype LGA office in Ibesikpo Asutan was burnt down while two more offices in Mkpat Enin and Eastern Obolo LGAS were bombed.

“The recent attack on our facility after we have just concluded the inventory of electoral materials nationwide in readiness for the 2023 General Election is worrisome. If unchecked, these attacks may constitute a setback on the Commission’s preparations, including the ongoing conversion of Voting Points to Polling Units, the forthcoming Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR) exercise, and the conduct of polls”, he added.

The commission’s information officer noted that the attack on INEC office on Sunday was reported by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, and that the Nigerian Police has commenced an investigation into the attacks.

He noted that the security guard at the INEC office escaped during the attack unhurt, stressing that the building and properties suffered extensive destruction.

The statement read, “The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, has reported that our office in Essien Udim Local Government Area has been set ablaze.

“The incident occurred in the early hours of this morning, Sunday 2nd May 2021. Our security guard on duty escaped unhurt but the destruction to the building and properties therein was extensive. Items destroyed include 345 ballot boxes, 135 voting cubicles, megaphones, water tanks, and office furniture.

“The police, which has also been battling with attacks on its facilities and personnel in the area, is aware of the incident and has commenced an investigation.

“Nevertheless, the Commission wishes to assure Nigerians that we will leave no stone unturned to recover from the incident in Akwa Ibom State as we continue to prepare for all electoral activities.”

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