Continuous attack on INEC facilities unacceptable

The continuous attack on the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called to question the sincerity of some political actors, who some say are behind the menace.

Recently, INEC says it has, in the last four years, recorded 50 separate attacks on its facilities across 15 states of the federation, meaning that an unquantifiable amount of tax-payers money has gone up in flames.

A breakdown of these attacks shows that in 2019, eight incidents were recorded; 22 in 2020, 12 in 2021, and eight in 2022 and, according to the commission’s classifications, 20 of the attacks were arson, 26 were vandalism while four were a combination of arson and vandalism.

In terms of spread, those attacks show that Imo State has the highest number with 11 incidents, followed by Osun, seven; Akwa-Ibom, five; Enugu, five; Ebonyi, four; Cross River, four; Abia, four; Anambra, two; Taraba, two, while Borno, Ogun, Lagos, Bayelsa, Ondo and Kaduna had one each.

An analysis of these attacks shows a curious case where relatively safe and peaceful regions of the country recorded more attacks than those that are unsafe and volatile with insurgent activities.

We find it difficult to believe that, in four years, investigations into the destruction of government’s assets built with tax payers money and containing vital documents and other items as important as voters registers and PVCs have not been concluded and someone has not been brought to justice

For instance, the South East region of the country accounts for 26 of the attacks, representing 52 percent as against four attacks in the entire Northern region, representing 8 percent of the attacks.

These are unacceptable incidents in a country that is lying economically prostrate, incapable of feeding its citizens or meeting its obligations to teachers and other workers in public universities.

Different reasons have been given for the frequent attacks on the INEC facilities, which are otherwise national assets. Besides the #EndSars protest of 2020 during which 18 of the facilities were destroyed by the youth who championed the protest, other attacks were mainly politically motivated.

Whatever are the reasons or the level of aggression of those who perpetrated these attacks, whether they are unknown gunmen and hoodlums, bandits, Boko Haram insurgents or political thugs, the attacks are highly condemnable.

Nigeria is just a couple of months away from a general election and INEC’s facilities are being wantonly destroyed, giving cause for worry how and when these facilities containing Voters Registers and Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) would be replaced for the elections.

The attacks present a scary scenario and a confused situation. Part of the confusion is that, in four years and after losing 50 facilities, INEC seems not to have done anything to stop these assaults on its facilities.

In the last four years, no single person has been arrested in connection with the destruction of a country’s national assets and that, in our opinion, is the reason for the impunity that defines the attitude and approach of the attackers.

When asked during a TV programme, Sunday Politics on Channel’s Television, what the commission has done to prevent further assault on its facilities, Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner in charge of Voter-Education, simply said it was the duty of security agencies to protect those facilities.

Okoye said that in the last four years, no single arrest had been made, not to talk of prosecuting anybody, but that those attacks were being investigated by the security agencies.

We feel uncomfortable with these developments and we expect INEC to feel so too. We suggest that, going forward, INEC should assist the law on arson and other forms of willful destruction of public assets to take its course.

We find it difficult to believe that, in four years, investigations into the destruction of government’s assets built with tax payers money and containing vital documents and other items as important as voters registers and PVCs have not been concluded and someone has not been brought to justice.

This only presents Nigeria as a lawless country where impunity reigns. It is our expectation that, by now, some people should be in jail while numerous others should be answering questions and helping the security agencies in their investigations. That, we believe, will serve as a deterrent to other criminal-minded people.

Arresting, prosecuting and jailing culprits have become more than necessary so as to prove, wrong or right, the insinuation in some quarters that these attacks are sponsored by desperate politicians who want to get at their opponents or hold down a whole region by burning these facilities with all the documents that could disenfranchise supporters of such opponents.

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The veracity or otherwise of these insinuations can only be established when INEC becomes less docile and more worried about the destruction of its documents which it spent public money and scarce human resources at its disposal to procure and/or prepare.

We are saying that enough is enough for these heartless attacks. We urge INEC to go beyond threatening to cancel elections, which has become its stock in trade, to doing something .

It is our candid advice that INEC should build its own security network around its facilities nationwide, especially during this election season. Where the regular police are insufficient or unavailable , it should go for the civil defence corps and even local vigilante.

Election, for us, is a very serious business. It is more so now that Nigerians want real positive change in the present leadership of their country which has left them marooned in a desert where their only companions are pain and stress, inflation, shrinking household income, and hunger.

Above all, INEC should work, more than ever before, with security agencies to ensure that there are no more attacks on its facilities. It should also ensure that previous attacks are genuinely investigated, arrests made, and somebody made to face the law. It’s time enough for the law to take its course in this regard.

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