By Ugochukwu Alaribe
ABA—Ahead of the 2019 general elections, civil society organizations, CSOs, have called on the federal government to beef up security at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, offices in the country to check activities that may mar the elections.
The CSOs which stated this while reacting to the burning of the INEC office at Isiala Ngwa South Council Area of Abia State, Saturday night, condemned the development and urged INEC to ensure that the people whose Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, were burnt are not disenfranchised.
It should be recalled that the INEC office in Mgboko, Obingwa Council Area, was set ablaze in 2015 by unknown hoodlums.
It was gathered that the Isiala Ngwa South INEC office which was formerly at the council headquarters, Omoba, was relocated a week ago to Umuikaa. According to sources in the area, the inferno started Saturday night but was noticed very early on Sunday morning.
When Vanguard visited the area, there was a combined team of security agents at the area.
It was observed that thousands of yet to be collected PVCs were burnt beyond recognition. Abia State Police spokesman, SP Geoffrey Ogbonna , said the entire INEC building was not burnt.
Ogbonna explained that the arsonists set ablaze one of the rooms being used in storing PVC, and added that investigation is ongoing to unravel those behind those behind the act.
Speaking on the incident, in an interview with South East Voice, Chairman, Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, Aba Unit, Prof. Charles Chinekezi, said the burning of the INEC office is a warning to the electoral agency that it has more work to do in the area of securing election materials from hoodlums who may want to destroy them in the interest of their sponsors.
He urged politicians not to take election as a do or die affair, and advocated for the banning of candidates linked with violence.
“The burning of INEC office at Isiala Ngwa South is an ominous sign that INEC should go back to the drawing board in the issue of securing election materials. It is also a sign that the 2019 general elections would not be free as we expect. You can’t have credible elections when there is tension. The burning of PVCs is a serious setback on the polls.
“The Presidential and National Assembly polls are barely two weeks away, adequate security should be provided at INEC offices nationwide. We cannot afford violence in the elections; this is why we in CLO are advocating for the banning of any political party or candidate associated with violent conducts. The government needs to act first.”
Secretary, EasyLife Initiative for Rural Youths, Comrade Uche Emeku, described the situation as worrisome as the 2019 general elections draw close. He blamed the situation on desperation from disgruntled politicians who don’t want free and fair.
“This is intimidation and should not be allowed. It is the handwork of desperate politicians who don’t want free and fair election. Last time, the INEC office at Obingwa LGA was razed, now it is Isiala Ngwa South LGA; the hoodlums who perpetrate these acts have become daring because nobody has been arrested. It pains me that the burnt office is located near Police and Naval units, yet the harm was done.”
Executive Director, Initiative for Development and Emancipatory Leadership in Nigeria, IDEAL Nigeria, Comrade Innocent Nwokocha, urged security agencies to be alive to their responsibilities in providing security at INEC offices as well as security for candidates.
He further urged the Inter Party Advisory Committee, IPAC, to mandate all political parties to educate their members to shun violence in order to have credible elections.