By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA: The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said that it would press ahead with preparations for Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections despite recent incidences of attacks on two of its offices.
Festus Okoye, a National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, disclosed this in a statement issued Sunday night in Abuja.
According to him, the fire incident that occurred at the Qua’an Pan Local Government office of the Commission in Plateau State on Saturday 9th February 2019 is the second of such incidents in less than a week. The first incident occurred in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government office of the Commission in Abia State on Saturday, 2nd February.
However, Okoye said “the Commission will proceed as planned in the affected Local Government Areas and all the burnt materials will be replaced in good time and as such, will not affect the conduct of the elections.”
Some of the items destroyed in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government include 2979 Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and other materials. At the Qua’an Pan office, items destroyed include 5987 uncollected Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), 380 Voting Cubicles, 755 ballot boxes, 14 generators, election forms and official stamps.
The Commission said it has notified the Acting Inspector General of Police of the emerging trend of the burning of the Local Government Offices of the Commission close to the conduct of the elections and at a period when the Commission is engaged in the massive movement of election related materials nationwide.
“In view of these developments, the Commission has taken the following steps:
“Notified the Inspector General of Police of this new trend and requested that additional security measures be provided to enhance security around INEC Offices and other critical structures of the Commission.
“Directed the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Plateau State to open a register for all those in the affected Local Government Area, who approach the Commission to collect their PVCs, within the specified period. The Commission will print the PVCs and make them available for collection in good time before the elections.
“Reprinted and delivered the Permanent Voters’ Cards of the affected registered voters in Isiala Ngwa South in Abia State.
“Made temporary arrangements for the relocation of the burnt offices of the Commission. The said offices will be ready for the conduct of the February 16 and March 2, 2019 elections.
“All relevant security agencies have been requested to arrest and bring to justice, persons or groups involved in the attacks on the offices of the Commission”.
The two fire incidents did not affect the Smart Card Readers that are at present being configured in the respective state offices of the Commission.
“The Commission wishes to assure all Nigerians that it will not succumb to the antics of arsonists whose motive might be to create fear in the minds of voters and sabotage the conduct of the 2019 general elections”, INEC added.