Hoodlums again launched a series of coordinated attacks on the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) facilities in Anambra, Enugu and Imo States on Sunday, prompting the Commission to declare the recurrent invasions as a national emergency.
All three incidents have been reported to the Police for investigation. Although no lives were lost, the Commission said it was clear that the orchestrated, targeted attacks aimed to hinder it in conducting electoral activities, especially in Anambra State.
Concerned about the frequency of recurring unprovoked attacks, the Commission has resolved to brief the Federal Government and its Stakeholders on the developments.
According to a statement issued at the end of its emergency meeting on Monday, the Commission said the latest attack on its state headquarters office in Awka, which was set ablaze, was the most devastating so far.
National Commissioner Festus Okoye, who signed the statement, noted that the attackers were systematic and selective in their targets. The pavilion, which serves as Collation Centre during significant elections, was burnt down.
His words: “In what is a major blow to our preparations for the Governorship election scheduled for 6th November 2021, two stores housing electoral materials were burnt down. New and old (but serviceable) electric generating machines numbering 376 for all the Electoral Wards and the extra numbers for backup were completely burnt. The electric generators were recently relocated from the Local Government Areas (LGAs) to the State HQ in the belief that it is more secure than the LGA offices.”
Okoye regretted that about 50 per cent of the non-sensitive materials required for the Anambra Governorship election scheduled for 6th November 2021, which had already been delivered to the state as part of the Commission’s proactive move to ensure the success of the election, were lost to the fire. Seven utility Toyota Hilux vehicles were also burnt.
However, the replacement Smart Card Readers (SCRs), provided after the fire incident which occurred on the eve of the 2019 General Election, in which the SCRs for the state were destroyed, were spared. The Commission had moved them from the shipping containers to the concrete store for enhanced protection.
Okoye said the Commission’s Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area office in Imo State was also attacked at about 6.45 pm yesterday with attempts to set the building ablaze. “Fortunately, the damage was limited to a section of the building, specifically the windows and part of the roof. No electoral materials or office equipment were destroyed,” he noted.
But the Enugu State office was not so lucky. Okoye said the store in the Commission’s Igboeze South LGA was attacked at about 1 pm yesterday and wholly burnt down before the Neighborhood Watch and the Enugu State Fire Service responded and prevented the inferno from razing other parts of the building.
The attack on the INEC office in Enugu State is the third in less than two weeks. The Udenu LGA office was attacked and destroyed on 13th May 2021, followed by another attack on the State Headquarters building in Enugu on 16th May 2021.
However, Okoye affirmed: “In spite of these setbacks, the Commission is determined to continue to discharge its responsibilities including the conduct of the scheduled Anambra Governorship election.”