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Is burning of INEC offices a rigging strategy?

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A matter of days to the commencement of the much-talked about 2019 general election, too many heinous acts are being perpetrated by desperate parties and politicians who want to embrace victory “by hook or by crook”.

Apart from brazen acts of inducing the electorate openly, some are trying to ambush their opponents by ensuring that they reduce the tally of their (opponents’) supporters.

Incessant attacks on the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) across the country, ahead of the 2019 general election, may have been one of those moves, and these have become worrisome.

In a matter of one month, three offices of the commission have been reportedly torched in different parts of the country.

First, it was the burning of INEC office in Umuikaa, Isialangwa Local Government Area of Abia State, in which vital materials were destroyed, including several permanent voters’ cards (PVCs).

While the country was yet to recover from the shock of the dastardly act, another incident occurred in Qua’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State.

The Plateau fire incident was immediately confirmed by Osaretin Imajiyereobo, head of Department Voter Education and Publicity in Plateau State.

According to Imajiyereobo, election materials such as ballot boxes, PVCs, and voters’ registers were among the things burnt down.

Three days after, the Commission’s office in Awka, Anambra State capital, was gutted by fire.

These are dangerous developments that remind us of the ugly past when unscrupulous elements, in their bid to cover their nefarious deeds, decided to burn down government property. The ugly developments are also stark evidences that Nigerian democracy is far from maturing.

It has been noted that the vibes oozing out from different parties and candidates are very dangerous for the desired growth in our quest for true nationhood.

The level of desperation being displayed this time around to win election at all costs is injurious to one and all, including the masterminds of such brigandage, in the long run.

While the security agencies in the country have since swung into action to unravel the mysteries behind the destruction of INEC facilities, politicians must understand that politics, as a game, must be played by people who must exhibit acceptable level of sportsmanship.

Reacting to the Abia incident, Alex Otti Campaign Organisation believed the attack was politically-motivated for those who want to score some political goal. The group described the incident as a big threat to the 2019 election.

Max Nduaguibe, director-general of Alex Otti campaign group, said: “It is beyond coincidence that the willful destruction of INEC office happened barely two days after the massive turnout of supporters at Isiala Ngwa North and South campaign rallies addressed by Otti and other candidates from the area.”

It recalled that in 2015, the same INEC office, which was then located within the premises of the Isiala Ngwa South Local government, Umuoba was burnt down during the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections, when the APGA House of Assembly candidate, Levi Atulegwu was leading his opponents, including the PDP candidate by wide vote margin.

“The same ugly incident was repeated in Obingwa, during the governorship tribunal instituted by our Principal, Dr. Alex Otti. Thugs, obviously acting on the instructions of the government, burnt down the Obingwa INEC office, less than 24 hours after the tribunal gave order for INEC to tender materials used in the Local Government Area before the tribunal for forensic examination,” it further said.

It also stated that on January, 9th this year, the Alex Otti Campaign Organisation had cause to issue a statement, drawing the attention of Nigerians and Abia citizens, in particular to an alleged clandestine and fraudulent plot by the state government and PDP to collect details of people’s PVCs and in some cases purchasing them from unsuspecting members of the public.

The Campaign Organisation urged INEC to collaborate with relevant security agencies to fish out the arsonists who have continued to burn down INEC facilities with impunity and deal with them accordingly.

But the allegation by the Otti group was pooh-poohed by Don Ubani, publicity secretary of Abia PDP, who distanced the state government and the ruling party in Abia from such dishonourable act.  He wondered how the party could do such a thing in area where it had overwhelming support.

 The Plateau INEC fire incident was blamed on a drunken “security man”, a pedestrian excuse that reduces a serious matter to a laughable one.

Imajiyereobo had explained in a statement issued immediately after the Plateau incident that “A drunken security man was said to have caused the fire outbreak. The office is completely burnt with all its content, such as Ballot boxes, generators serviced and filled with fuel, cubicles, newly printed electronic and manual Voters Register, uncollected PVCs, materials for the preparations of RAC and other materials yet to be identified.”

Expressing shock and disbelief over the inferno which completely consumed the INEC office in Qua’an Pan Local Government Area of the state, the state PDP, in a statement signed by Yiljap Abraham,head of Media and Publicity Committee of the state party Campaign Council, said that it was strange that such fire could have ignited in a building housing very important materials just as preparations for the national election are intensifying.

The party further urged INEC to work out modalities for eligible voters whose Permanent Voters Cards (PVC’s) were destroyed in the fire to vote in the election, while charging security agencies to put in motion measures to improve the over-all security of every INEC office across the state.

The party urged its members to cooperate with INEC and security personnel to ensure the safety and sanctity of materials, personnel and buildings.

The Awka fire yesterday lasted for hours in the two containers housing some of the most sensitive equipment for the elections in the state.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Nkwachukwu Orji said the contents gutted by fire were mostly the smart card readers for the elections. “I don’t have the details of how it started, but all I can report is that there was a fire incident in our premises,” Orji said.

Fire incidents in Nigeria have become a get-away route by criminals after they must have carried out their unholy acts. It is high time security agencies come up modern ways of securing such places, particular at sensitive period of elections.

In all the places that were affected, no matter how meticulous INEC may be, it may be difficult to replace all the items that were destroyed in the inferno. It is also not a rocket science to apprehend the masterminds of such acts and appropriate punishment meted out to them as a deterrent to others who may be nursing such sinister plots.

 

PDP accuses APC of burning INEC offices

The Peoples Democratic Party, Tuesday, accused the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC of burning the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, offices in various parts of the country. The party clearly stated that it has fresh facts and prove to show that APC was responsible for the burnt INEC offices. In a statement disclosed by the National Publicity Secretary and Director, Media & Publicity, PDP Presidential Campaign Organization, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party charged INEC to be careful noting that APC is after its facilities.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says fresh facts available to it have shown that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is responsible for the burning of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices in various parts of the country.

The PDP already has the details of how the APC mobilized misguided elements in its fold to burn INEC offices and destroy electoral materials and equipment in Plateau, Abia and Anambra state. Our party is also privy to clandestine plots by the APC to burn INEC offices in some other states, so as to paralyse the commission’s operations in such states, and pave the way for the isolation and postponement of Presidential elections in those states; after which it plans to unleash compromised security agencies to muzzle the shifted polls in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari. Having realized that President Buhari has no chance in a credible, free and fair general election, the APC now plots a violent staggering of the polls so as to use security forces to re-enact the same rigging formula it used in the 2018 Ekiti and Osun governorship elections. In attacking INEC offices and destroying the card readers, APC seeks to cripple the commission’s use of full benefit of technology that will guarantee a credible biometric voter accreditation. The PDP in very unequivocal terms insists that it will never accept any attempt by the APC to postpone the Presidential election in any state of the federation. The Presidential election must hold in all the states on the 16th of February and President Buhari will be served his defeat certificate.

 

Zebulon Agomuo

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