February 16, 2023

Arson attacks on INEC facilities

THE violence which followed the EndSARS protests of October 2020, culminated in systematic attacks on facilities of the Nigeria Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, by hoodlums who were dubiously dubbed “unknown gunmen”.

Between October 2020 and now, no less than 15 INEC offices have been hit, particularly in the South-East, South-South and South-West. The INEC Commissioner for Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said in a statement issued in Abuja recently that seven facilities in five states have been destroyed in the past six months. These facilities are in Igbo-Eze North, Ezza and Izzi in Ebonyi; Orlu in Imo State and others in Awgu (Enugu), Abeokuta (Ogun) and Osogbo (Osun) states.

If the targeting of the Police could be understood (but unacceptable) because of police brutality which was a top reason for the protests, the systematic burning down and destruction of buildings housing INEC’s electoral and office materials cannot be logically deciphered.

The shocking thing is that our security agencies have somehow failed to identify the network of malcontents behind these dastardly attacks. The first thing that comes to mind when a situation like this persists is to identify those who stand to benefit from the crime, or whose interests are served. As to the attacks in the South-East and parts of the South-South, the Police and other security agencies tritely blame the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and its militia, the Eastern Security

 Network, ESN.

However, the IPOB, through its spokesperson, Emma Powerful, has repeatedly denied involvement, adding that the separatist group is not interested in Nigeria’s elections. What about the attacks in the South-West? We pose the question because the IPOB and ESN are not active outside the former Eastern Region.

There could be some sinister groups of political actors who might have armed hoodlums to attack INEC offices in areas where their main opponents are strong, perhaps to disenfranchise the people. The objective could be to deny the electorate in such areas access to their Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, or destroy INEC’s tech equipment to subvert their use in the coming elections.

This possibility should be seriously looked into because some political leaders have been desperately exploring all avenues to stop INEC from using its home-grown technologies – the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, the electronic transmission of results to INEC servers and the real-time display of results on the INEC Result Viewing, IreV, portal.

We urge INEC not to be deterred. It should beef up security around its facilities and ensure that the forthcoming elections are not derailed. More efforts should be made to arrest and punish the perpetrators and their sponsors. The 2023 elections will determine the future of Nigeria. Nigerians must freely choose, and their choices must count.