•Says ‘we lost over 1990 ballots boxes, 399 voting cubicles, 24 gen sets, others
•As UNDP tasked INEC on credible elections
•Reps to probe attacks on INEC assets
By Olayinka Ajayi
The National Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission , INEC, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, yesterday assured that the commission would recover from recent attacks on its facilities.
The INEC boss spoke on a day the House of Representatives resolved to probe the attacks on the commission’s assets.
Speaking during a retreat for Resident Electoral Commissioners, REC, in Lagos, Yakubu who charged RECs to be professional in their duties, said: “Our success ultimately depends on our integrity.
”The commission is not a political party, the commission has no candidate in the forthcoming elections. All political parties have equal standing before the commission.
“Our responsibility is to uphold the sanctity of ballot, nothing more, nothing less. The retreat is to familiarize RECs with the processes and procedures because the election is holding in the next 86days.
“In the last four months, five of our offices were attacked, building damaged, materials destroyed across the country.
“It is worrisome for us because we lost over 1990 ballots boxes, 399 voting cubicles, 24 generators, and quite numbers of PVCs among many other items.
“These attacks must stop and the perpetrators prosecuted. Our responsibility is to conduct elections and I want to assure Nigerians that we will recover from these attacks and the lost materials will be replaced.
“We will continue to work with security agencies, traditional and community leaders, and well meaning Nigerians to stop the attacks. But the ultimate solution is to arrest and prosecute the culprits.
“One of the most painful is the recent attack in Ebonyi State. Staff relocated to the office on Friday and on Sunday, the facility was attacked.
“But we are confident that we will recover but there’s a limit as to how much we can recover if the attacks continue, with 86 days to the general elections.
“We are committed to ensuring that nothing will stop the election from going ahead as scheduled and the will of Nigerian people will prevail.”
On insinuations that voters can vote without PVCs, Yakubu, who flayed the online report that spread the information, said: “For anybody to vote, the commission has always maintained the policy of no PVC, no voting.
”So nothing has changed and that would be a violation of section 47, sub section 1 of the Electoral Act of 2022. Any Nigerian who wish to vote on election day must present his or her PVC to the presiding officer at the polling unit.
”The policy hasn’t changed and we will be the last to violate the Electoral Act. So Nigerians should discontenance the insinuation that people can vote on election day without PVC.”
On court judgement to continue with voters registration, the INEC boss said: “We have consistently said there’s no court judgement that says INEC should continue with voters registration.
”It’s a misinformation and that should also be discontenanced. We have less than 90days to the election and there’s no court order to resume registration.”
UNDP tasked INEC on credible elections
On his part, representative of United Nations Development Programme ,UNDP, Chief Technical Advisor on Elections, Deryck Fritz, who warned that democracy was threatened globally, urged INEC to ensure that the forthcoming elections was credible.
“In several countries, election results are not being accepted, are being challenged and illegal means are being used to address electoral process.
”The new Electoral Act should be the basis of addressing the aggrieved person’s. So INEC should ensure that it conducts credible elections.”
Reps to probe attacks on INEC assets
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the attacks on offices and facilities belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission across the country.
At the yesterday’s plenary, the House condemned all forms of attack on the facilities and buildings of the Federal Government in the country, particularly attacks on the facilities and infrastructure of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The House also urged politicians and stakeholders to admonish their supporters to refrain from attacks and violence before or during the 2023 general election.
It equally urged the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Department of State Services, and other security agencies to work with the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to “identify, investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators behind the attacks.”
While urging politicians and the police to uphold various peace accords signed across the countries, the House called on the police to “avoid being partisan in the provision of security for politicians and other stakeholders.
It resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to “investigate the remote and immediate cause of the incessant inferno on (sic) INEC offices in different parts of the country and report back within three weeks for further legislative action.”
These resolutions were based on the motion moved by a member of the House, Kunle Olanrewaju, titled, ‘Need to condemn attacks on offices and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission.’
After the motion was adopted, the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, set up a panel to carry out the task.
Moving the motion, Olarewaju noted the “frequent systemic arson and attacks” on the personnel, offices and facilities of INEC, claiming the “premeditated attacks are targeted at crippling the Commission and scuttling the 2023 general election.”
He also noted that between February 2019 and May 2021, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project reported that at least 41 arsons were carried out on INEC’s facilities in 14 states. He particularly noted that on November 10, 2022, the Commission’s office in the Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State was set ablaze by hoodlums with not less than 65,000 uncollected Permanent Voter Cards razed down by the fire.
According to him, a PVC was estimated to cost about N170,000 in 2019, which may cost more for INEC to produce, alongside the main building, movable assets and facilities such as 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags, eight electric power generators and 65,699 uncollected PVCs, which were reportedly destroyed by unidentified persons at the Abeokuta South Local Government office.
The lawmaker further noted that on the same day, arsonists and thugs set ablaze the INEC building at Oke Iresi, Ede South Local Government of Osun State.
Olarewaju said, “The House is also worried that if these systematically orchestrated attacks on personnel and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission are not checked, the actions are capable of disrupting the 2023 general election.
“The House observes that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), guarantees democratic governance as the only acceptable and legitimate means of governance, and democracy is only sustained by free, fair and credible elections, hence, an attack against elections is an attack against democratic governance and perpetrators of such attacks are enemies of the country.
“The House is disturbed that despite the affront to democracy and the Constitution of the Nigerian State, the Nigeria Police and other security agencies have been unable to arrest perpetrators of this heinous crime.”