WHOEVER is telling Nigerians that some of the INEC direct data capturing machines stolen at the Lagos airport have been recovered is missing the point about the theft. Even promises that the rest will be found do not compensate for the implications of this incident for the 2011 elections.
Enough controversies are trailing the elections. The Electoral Act, though amended, does not have the backing of the Constitution. A court is yet to determine whether the amended Constitution will be valid without the President’s signature. The machines in question are also the subject of a legal dispute.
Why will anyone steal the machines that are important to the sanctity INEC wants to achieve in the 2011 elections? Did the authorities realise the security implications of the machines getting into unauthorised hands? Has this incident not compromised the registration of voters? Was this an ordinary theft?
It seems there is an under_estimation of this incident. There should have been better security for the machines. Who does not know how easily things are stolen at the airport, sometimes as aircraft taxi?
Were the machines so unimportant to be left unguided? Or did the security agencies look away so that those who wanted the machines could steal them? Whatever it was, it is clear the 2011 elections are endangered. Billions of Naira was approved post haste for the acquisition of the machines. INEC had said it could not conduct free and fair elections without the machines. How could the authorities be so careless with such sensitive equipment?
“It is an irresponsible and criminal negligence of duty on the part of all agencies responsible for the machines, and this House must ensure that we get to the root of this matter, since our democracy seemed at risk here,” Halims Agoda said at the House of Representatives. How will the House get to the root of the theft if the security agencies cannot?
Another member of the House of Representatives Saleh Minjibir said, “We need to take urgent actions that would inspire confidence in the mind of our electorate that the 2011 elections would be free and fair.”
Speculations abound about the theft but some of the conclusions could be that the thieves knew what they were taking though there had been instances when cargo thieves took whatever was available.
The other, and very dangerous, is that they were working for politicians who want to know the configuration of the machines in order to perfect their plans to rig the new voters list. They must have insider information to gain access to the cargo.
Whatever happened, it is unimaginable that the hordes of security men at the airport, maintained at public cost, did not know how important the machines are.
Blames are already flying. Most of them are in the direction of the clearing agent. We are further scandalised at the expectation that a clearing agent will secure sensitive national assets like the INEC machines. When we import arms, do we leave the security to the clearing agent?