Metro News Nigeria

65,699 PVCs, 904 Ballot Boxes Burnt After Attacks on INEC Offices

A resurgence of arson targeted at public institutions, especially those critical to the successful conduct of the 2023 general elections, yesterday, raised fears of a volatile electioneering season as the country begins its countdown to the polls.

After a jolt from simultaneous attacks on its Osun and Ogun offices, yesterday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has summoned an emergency security meeting today with head of security agencies, who are members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), including the National Security Adviser (NSA), over recent attacks on its facilities to deliberate on the disturbing trend.

National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said that the meeting was triggered by the attacks on the Commission’s Local Government offices in Ogun and Osun.

“The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ogun, Dr. Niyi Ijalaiye, reported that our office in Abeokuta South Council was attacked and set ablaze. The incident occurred around 1.15a.m. 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, eight electric power generators and 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

“Similarly, the REC for Osun, Dr. Mutiu Agboke, reported that our office in Ede South Council was attacked and set ablaze. The incident occurred in the early hours when some unidentified persons attacked the building and set a portion of it ablaze.

“Fortunately, the damage to our Ede South Council office was limited to a section of the building and only some furniture items were destroyed.

“The attention of the Nigeria Police Force and other security and safety agencies has been drawn to the incidents and they have commenced investigation.

“With just 106 days to the 2023 general elections when the Commission has commenced the movement of materials to our offices nationwide, these simultaneous attacks are very worrisome indeed.

“Similarly, the rising incidents of attacks on supporters of various political parties since the commencement of campaign barely two months ago and the use of hate and incendiary language by some politicians are extremely disturbing. Accordingly, the Commission has convened an emergency meeting of the ICCES for November 11, (today), to discuss the disturbing trend.

It was gathered that some hoodlums, numbering about eight, scaled the perimeter fence of INEC office at Iyana Mortuary in Abeokuta, jumped into the premises and set the INEC building on fire from the back.

After invading the premises, the hoodlums soaked loaves of bread with petrol and threw same into the building at different angles to light up the office.

It was further gathered that a security guard at the facility identified as Azeez Hamzat, made a distress call to the police around 1:00a.m. alerting them on the fire incident.

The police from Ibara division mobilised detectives to the scene and later contacted men of fire service in the state, who raced to the scene to put out the fire.

In Osun, it was gathered that the conference room of the office was mainly affected in the inferno. Early response of firemen from Osun State Fire Service to the incident was said to have restricted the fire to only the conference room.

It was further learnt that items like knife, slices of bread, a keg containing petrol and a fez cap were recovered from the scene of the fire, raising suspicion of arson.

The Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Lanre Bankole, has described the burnt INEC office as a case of arson and wake up call for the police to beef up security across the state. Bankole disclosed this while he was on inspection of the burnt office.

Others who came with the CP are Director, State Security Service (SSS), Femi Aaron; Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Niyi Ajibola and Amotekun Commander, Dave Akinremi.

Bankole, who described the incident as very sad and unfortunate, said “is no doubt strange to Ogun State and it is undoubtedly a wake up call. We shall surely get to the root of the matter. We shall also ensure that security is beefed up across the state.”

The Ogun INEC REC, Ijalaye, described the incident as very shocking, saying that the losses suffered is quite colossal. He added that his staff are still carrying out internal investigation to know the extent of damage.

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