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ATTACKS on the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) across the country have sparked the rage of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Baba Akali.
The duo read the riot act against further attacks on the offices of INEC, saying that security agencies had been given clear cut directives to deal decisively with individuals or groups working to scuttle the 2023 electoral process.
Mungono and Akali also slammed political actors over violent clashes at political meetings and rallies.
The electoral umpire said it had so far tracked 50 incidents of physical attacks during the ongoing political campaigns across 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Commission’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, noted that “these unhappy occurrences are coming just a little over one month into the election campaign which is scheduled to last for about five months from 28th September 2022 to 23rd February 2023 for national elections (presidential and National Assembly) and from 12th October, 2022 to 11th March, 2023 for state elections (governorship and house of assembly).”
He added that “the Commission is worried that if no urgent and decisive steps are taken, the attacks will intensify as we approach the election date. As we all know, a peaceful campaign heralds a peaceful election. We need to take decisive steps to stem the ugly trend.”
The trio spoke at the emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) held at INEC Headquarters.
The NSA, in his terse remark, assured that the security agencies have been given clear cut instructions “to preempt and deal with any situation in which any rogue organisation or institution decides to embark on what we consider to be a fundamentally criminal enterprise.”
He continued: “I am aware of the fact that within a period of just one month from October 8 to November 9, we’ve had 52 cases of violence across 22 states of the federation.
“This is a bad signal. This is something that we do not want to continue. This is something that’s going to result in a lot of complications.
“We’re all aware of the fact that the President, as far as he’s concerned, is committed to upholding and safeguarding democracy. This is what the people want.
“The President has also given his directives through me to all the operational intelligence and law enforcement agencies to ensure that the 2023 elections are held in an atmosphere devoid of rancour.
“Those people who have gangsters working for them, I want to send a very, very clear warning, a categorical and unequivocal warning to each and every one, regardless of whichever political party, including the party of the President, for as long as you decide to scuttle the electoral process, the law enforcement agencies will equally be uninhibited in reacting to whatever actions you have taken.
“You will be visited with appropriate and commensurate response. I want to assure you, and I’m saying this with all sincerity, so those people who feel they have had a history of organising and controlling groups that have an inclination for excessive, immoderate and inordinate behaviour, I want to send this warning to you, please, reevaluate whatever contemplation you have been making.
“Call your people and advise them that as long as they do not behave in a manner that suggests compliance with the electoral laws, you will be held accountable.
“Therefore, it is important for you to call those people, and you know the people under your control, those trigger happy hoods foaming at the mouth, desperate to have the opportunity to undermine the electoral process.
“They will be brought to book. Already, the security agencies and intelligence agencies have been tracking these people. This I can guarantee you.
“You need to do yourself a favour. Call your people, your hoods, talk to them, have a nice, quiet, fireside chat with them and tell them to lay down whatever plans they have, because whoever wins in any state whichever party that wins, that party has won.
“This is the intention of the President of this country. There will be no excuse whatsoever. So if you think you can stretch security agencies, I think you’re making a mistake. You need to reconsider your position.
“Nobody’s going to take any excuse because the security agencies have been directed to behave in the same manner. I think a word is enough for the wise.
“Those people in the position to call to order these criminal elements, I’m giving you a word of advice: please reconsider your position.”
The IGP on his part said he had directed Commissioners of Police to upscale security arrangements around INEC offices and facilities across the states.
According to him, the incidences of intolerance by politicians are a major threat to the electoral process.
He said: “We have incidents of rallies, campaigns and processions being disturbed violently. We have witnessed sabotage by destroying and attacking INEC offices, personnel, and so forth.
“It is our determination to ensure that these things are put to rest very quickly to enable us to forge ahead and conduct the general elections.
“It is my hope that very quickly we will come under one umbrella as we are planning to call for a meeting of all the security agencies to see how we can collaborate and ensure that rallies, processions and campaigns are not disturbed the way it has been.
“It is also my wish and prayer with the incidents so far, arrests have been made, investigations have been conducted and some suspects have been charged to court. My prayer is for quick dispensation of justice so that it will serve as a deterrent to others and also reduce the cases of impunity.”
The INEC Chairman, while lamenting the escalating attacks on its personnel and facilities, called for a decisive and swift response from the security agencies to check the trend.
Recalling the recent attacks on the Commission’s offices in Ogun and Osun states, Yakubu said if urgent and decisive steps were not taken, “the attacks will intensify as we approach the election date.”
His words: “Two developments this week necessitated this meeting. First, the simultaneous attacks on our local government area offices in Abeokuta South in Ogun State and Ede South Local Government office in Osun State.
“The attack in Abeokuta South happened around 1.15am while that of Ede happened around 6.00am yesterday Thursday 10th November, 2022.
“Our immediate conclusion is that they may not be isolated, but we leave this determination to the security agencies who are investigating the incidents.
“Secondly, the spate of attacks during electioneering campaigns by political parties is increasing rather than decreasing.
“While the damage in the attack in Ede South was minimal, that of Abeokuta South was extensive. Materials destroyed include 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 8 electric power generators, 57 election bags, 30 megaphones, 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and a host of other assorted items such as stamps and stamp pads.
“The Commission is taking urgent steps to repair the damage to the building and replace the facilities in the Ede South Local Government Area so that the office becomes functional again immediately.
“For Abeokuta South Local Government Area office, the destruction was total. Consequently, the Commission is relocating our staff to the old State office (also known as INEC Office Annex) in Oke-Ilewo area of Abeokuta.
“All activities involving the 15 Registration Areas (Wards) and 445 Polling Units in Abeokuta South Local Government Area will henceforth be coordinated from the new location in Oke-Ilewo.
“Similarly, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ogun State has been directed to compile the Voter Identification Numbers (VINs) of all the 65,699 Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) lost in the attack from our database and submit the record for immediate reprint. We want to assure affected registered voters in Abeokuta South that no one will be disenfranchised as a result of this dastardly act.”
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The INEC Chair continued: “Turning to the spate of physical attacks during the ongoing political campaigns and rallies, the Commission has so far tracked 50 incidents across 21 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
“These unhappy occurrences are coming just a little over one month into the election campaign which is scheduled to last for about five months from 28th September, 2022 to 23rd February, 2023 for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and from 12th October 2022 to 11th March 2023 for State elections (Governorship and Houses of Assembly).
“The Commission is worried that if no urgent and decisive steps are taken, the attacks will intensify as we approach the election date. As we all know, a peaceful campaign heralds a peaceful election. We need to take decisive steps to stem the ugly trend.
“As a body, the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) brings together security, safety and other agencies responsible for securing the process and ensuring peaceful elections in Nigeria.
“Understandably, Nigerians expect a decisive action from ICCES. It is important that we move swiftly to apprehend perpetrators, prosecute them as required by law and reinforce security around election officials and electoral infrastructure around the country.
“As we have stated on several occasions, election is a multi-stakeholder activity involving not just INEC and the security agencies. The political class plays perhaps the most critical role in ensuring peaceful elections.
“We must all rise to the occasion. Nigerians are watching us. The world is watching us. We must never disappoint them.
“The Commission wishes to reassure Nigerians that we remain committed to delivering credible elections in spite of the challenges.
“The attempt to sabotage or weaken our resolve will not deter us from conducting transparent elections in which only the votes cast by Nigerians on Election Day will determine winners of elections.”
INEC moves sensitive materials to Osun headquarters over attack
Following arsonists’ attack on the office of INEC in Ede South Local Government Area, Osun State, the commission has moved sensitive materials from their offices to the headquarters.
The commission’s office situated at Oke-Iresi was attacked with petrol bomb on Thursday morning, leaving the conference hall of the building partially razed.
To mitigate the effect of another possible attack, the commission in the state has moved sensitive material from the local offices to the state headquarters in Osogbo for safety.
Osun State Resident of Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr Mutiu Agboke, narrated on a private radio station, RAVE FM, Osogbo during a talk show programme yesterday how the arsonists carried out the dastardly act.
He said: “Some unidentified individuals tried to raze our property in Ede but God did not allow them to have their way, because they attempted to burn the entire office but it was only our conference room that was affected.
“The attack was carried out around 9 am. Only God knows their motive, but we have left it for the police and security operatives to unravel the intention of these people.
“During the attack on our office in Ede, our security (guard) had to flee for his life because he saw those people with dangerous weapons on okada (motorcycle). Nobody was able arrest anybody.
“This is a holistic thing that the commission and security have to look at. This has shown us a path of consciousness that has let us know that we will not allow anything to be left behind.”
He added: “The attackers entered through the window of the conference room. They torched it, and immediately the residents of the area saw smoke, they alerted us and police.
“The prompt response of police prevented havoc because those attackers escaped the scene as the items used were recovered.
“As I speak to you, the sensitive items in the office are intact, like the register of voters that we intended to display on the 12th of this month, uncollected permanent voter cards and many more. So nothing was lost, especially sensitive and non-sensitive material of our office, except the furniture in the building.
“On our own side, we are trying to take administrative measures to prevent possible attack. Our items that we know can be vulnerable have been moved away.
“For Osun State, we have called the meeting of our electoral officers and we are going to ensure we collaborate with security agencies.
“We will continue to engage them for further engagement on security of our property. No cause for alarm.
“We know that those people with sinister motive may want to carry out more attacks, but the security won’t allow. We have moved all the materials from the offices to our office in Osogbo.”
Police, Amotekun beef up security at Ondo INEC office
Security has been beefed up around the Ondo secretariat of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Akure, the state capital, following the attacks on INEC offices in Ogun and Osun states.
Spokesman for the Ondo State Police Command, Fumilayo Odunlami, said anybody with suspicious movements around the INEC office would be arrested.
Odunlami said more men had been deployed to the Ondo office of INEC.
Commander of the Ondo Amotekun Corps, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, who confirmed deployment of personnel, said the outfit was also protecting all critical assets of both the state and federal governments in the state.
Insecurity will affect peaceful conduct of 2023 elections, says APGA chairman
The National Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Oye, yesterday expressed fear that the 2023 general election may be hindered by the insecurity challenges in the country.
Oye urged the Federal Government to take urgent steps to avert the looming calamity.
The APGA boss, who was briefing reporters on the party’s preparedness for the 2023 general election and the crisis in the party, also condemned the burning of INEC’s office in Ogun State.
He assured Nigerians that APGA was ready to participate in the forthcoming 2023 general election, adding that those who want to disrupt the peace in the party would fail.
Oye said: “We pray that the election will be peaceful. We need peace in Nigeria. We do not need anybody to die.
“Government must create jobs for our population. Government must provide security. Without security, you cannot have a good election.
“On Thursday, INEC office in Ogun State was burnt. Why? All this sad development will still go back to the government. They will use scarce resources to restore the burnt offices and equipment.
“Let our people be guided. Let peace reign. Nigeria is a great nation. This nation is blessed.”
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