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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said elections may be postponed in flashpoints, if the situation does not improve.
The Commission warned that the results of the 2023 polls may not be declared if elections are cancelled in many constituencies as a result of worsening insecurity.
However, the electoral umpire did not mention the areas where polls may not hold as scheduled.
INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while speaking at the validation of election security training resources in Abuja, observed that nexth month’s election faces serious threat of cancellation if the security situation across the country fails to improve.
Yakubu, who was represented by the Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute, Abdullahi Zuru, said “if the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder declaration of elections results and precipitate constitutional crisis.”
The Commission however, assured that it is not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that intensive and extensive security are provided for election personnel, materials and processes.
Mahmood said: “We all appreciate the fact that election security is vital to democratic consolidation through the provision of enabling environment for the conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections and thus strengthening the electoral process.
“This is particularly significant to the commission, given the current insecurity challenges in various parts the country and the fact that the National Youth Service Corps members constitute the core of the Polling Unit Election officials.
“This must not be allowed to happen and shall not be allowed to happen.
“Therefore, security personnel in particular and all election officials in general must be security conscious and alert to unusual activities in their environment and must be fully equipped to deal with any challenge at all times”.
Attacks on the Commission’s offices, personnel and other critical facilities, have assumed a disturbing dimension, especially in the Southeast part of the country.
In Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi states, INEC offices have been razed by hoodlums and gunmen, resulting in the death of personnel and massive destruction of election materials.
The attacks seem to be more prevalent in Imo State, where four offices, including the state headquarters, were attacked by gunmen in less than three weeks.
In the attack on the Commission’s headquarters in Owerri, the Imo State capital, three of the hoodlums and one Police Officer were killed
Three days after the Owerri attack, another INEC office was razed by gunmen in Orlu Local Government Area of the state.
In Abeokuta South Local Government Area in Ogun State, 65,000 Permanent Voters Card (PVC) were destroyed when INEC office was set ablaze by armed thugs.
According to INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, “the incident occurred around 1.15am when some unidentified persons overpowered the security personnel on duty and set the entire building ablaze.
“The main building and all the commission’s movable assets in the office were destroyed. They include 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags, 8 electric power generators and 65,699 uncollected permanent voters cards (PVCs).”
The Commission’s office was also attacked in Osun State.
Okoye said: “Similarly, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Osun State, Dr. Mutiu Agboke, reported that our office in Ede South local government area was attacked and set ablaze.”
“The incident occurred in the early hours of this morning when some unidentified persons attacked the building and set a portion of it ablaze.
“Fortunately, the damage to our Ede South Local Government office was limited to a section of the building and only some furniture items were destroyed”.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Baba Akali, have read the riot act against further attacks on INEC facilities across the country.
The duo said security agencies have been given directives to deal decisively with individuals or groups working to scuttle the electoral process.
Mungono and Akali also chided political actors over violent clashes at political meetings and rallies.
The security Chiefs spoke at the emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) at INEC Headquarters.
The NSA assured that the security agencies have been given clear cut instructions “to preempt and deal with any situation in which any rogue organization or institution the decides to embark on what we consider to be a fundamentally criminal enterprise”.
He said: “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, he 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 rancor.
“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 organizing and controlling groups that have an inclination for excessive, immoderate and inordinate behavior, 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 intelligence agencies have been tracking these people.”
“This I can guarantee you, you need to do yourself a favor. 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 said he has 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 is a major threat to the electoral process.
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