The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, has directed Commissioners of Police across the country to protect the facilities belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission. This, he said, was part of measures to prevent further attacks on the commission’s properties.
The Force Spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, gave the position of the IG in an interview with our source on Friday. He said the police boss also asked the police commissioners to intensify efforts to arrest the culprits involved in the attacks on the commission’s facilities nationwide.
The Osun and Ogun states offices of INEC were attacked and set ablaze on Thursday by some criminals, during which thousands of permanent voter cards awaiting collection and other materials were destroyed.
In Ogun State, 65,699 PVCs, 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags and eight electric power generators were destroyed while in Osun State, a portion of the commission’s office was set ablaze. The commission however said documents relating to the ongoing governorship election petitions tribunal in Osun State were not destroyed in the attack.
Speaking on the efforts to protect the commission’s facilities, Adejobi said, “The directive given by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to officers is that they must protect all INEC facilities. Hence, it is for the Commissioners of Police in the states to design how best they can protect INEC facilities within their Commands.”
“The IGP cannot go to every state to get that done. This is non-negotiable, the IGP has given that leadership platform, directive, and the strategic clues for them to deploy, so we expect every Commissioner of Police to fortify INEC facilities in their areas of responsibility.”
At an emergency meeting with the heads of security agencies who are members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security on Friday, the IG said some suspects had been arrested in connection with the twin attacks in Ogun and Osun states. He promised that justice would be served.
Muyiwa, in the interview with one of our correspondents, noted further that the IG had directed the police commissioner in Borno State to investigate the attack on the convoy of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, in the state. “The IGP has directed the CP Borno State to investigate the attack on Atiku Abubakar and arrest and prosecute the culprits,” he added.
Meanwhile, the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yabuku, said at the emergency meeting on Friday that the attacks on the commission’s facilities would not stop the 2023 elections from holding as scheduled. He also noted that a peaceful campaign was critical to a peaceful election.
Yakubu demanded the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators, warning that if nothing urgent was done and decisive steps taken, the attacks would intensify as the elections approach.
He stated, “Nigerians expect decisive action from ICCES. It is important that we move swiftly to apprehend perpetrators, prosecute them as required by law and reinforce security around election officials and electoral infrastructure around the country.
“As we have stated on several occasions, election is a multi-stakeholder activity involving not just INEC and the security agencies. The political class plays perhaps the most critical role in ensuring peaceful elections. We must all rise to the occasion. Nigerians are watching us. The world is watching us. We must never disappoint them.
“The commission wishes to reassure Nigerians that we remain committed to delivering credible elections in spite of the challenges. The attempt to sabotage or weaken our resolve will not deter us from conducting transparent elections in which only the votes cast by Nigerians on Election Day will determine winners of elections.”
Yakubu also explained that the commission was urgently taking steps to repair damaged INEC buildings and replace the burnt PVCs.
He stated, “The commission is taking urgent steps to repair the damage to the building and replace the facilities in the Ede South Local Government Area so that the office becomes functional again immediately.
“For Abeokuta South Local Government Area office, the destruction was total. Consequently, the commission is relocating our staff to the old state office (also known as INEC Office Annex) in Oke-Ilewo area of Abeokuta.
“All activities involving the 15 Registration Areas (Wards) and 445 Polling Units in Abeokuta South Local Government Area will henceforth be coordinated from the new location in Oke-Ilewo.”
He said further that the REC in Ogun State had been directed to compile the Voter Identification Numbers of all the 65,699 permanent voter cards lost in the attack from the database and submit the record for immediate reprint.
“We want to assure affected registered voters in Abeokuta South that no one will be disenfranchised as a result of this dastardly act.”
Also speaking at the event, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, said 52 electoral violence incidents were recorded in 22 states in one month. He noted that the rising campaign violence on political parties and supporters was a bad omen ahead of the 2023 elections.
He however warned the perpetrators, regardless of their political parties, to desist from their criminal plans because security agencies were tracking the situation. He also restated the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) to ensuring free and fair elections.
He said, “The emergency meeting is very crucial and timely as we approach the 2023 general elections. There are issues that have emerged. From my own statistics, I am aware of the fact that within the period of one month, from October 8 to November 9, 2022, we had 52 cases of violence across 22 states of the federation. This is a bad signal.
“We are all aware of the fact that the President is committed to upholding and safeguarding democracy. This is what the people want. The President has also given directives to all operational and Intelligence law enforcement agencies to ensure that the 2023 elections are held in an atmosphere void of violence.
“The President is extremely pleased with the outcome of the Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states and wants a repeat of such performance; a manifestation of the peoples’ will triumph over any obstacle that might dismantle the democracy that we are trying to protect.”
The NSA warned political parties to caution their officials and supporters against engaging in violence, noting that perpetrators won’t be spared.
In a related development, Okoye in a statement on Friday denied insinuations that the commission was planning to abandon the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and real-time electronic upload of polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing portal.
He stressed that BVAS and IReV had come to stay and that there was no plan to rig the election.
The statement read, “The claim is patently false. The commission has repeatedly reassured Nigerians that it will transmit results directly from the polling units as we witnessed in Ekiti and Osun State governorship elections and 103 more constituencies where off-cycle governorship/FCT Area Council elections and bye-elections were held since August 2020. The results can still be viewed on the portal.
“The IReV is one of the innovations introduced by the Commission to ensure the integrity and credibility of election results in Nigeria. It is therefore inconceivable that the commission will turn around and undermine its own innovations.
“The public is advised to ignore the reports. The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and IReV have come to stay for voter accreditation and uploading of polling unit results in real-time in Nigeria.”