Ahead of the 2023 general elections next year, there are growing fears that the elections, especially in the South-eastern part of the country, might be under a serious threat.
This is even more as the rate of attacks on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, offices and facilities have become more intense as the general elections draw close.
Our sources reported the recent Monday attack on the INEC office in Owerri, Imo State, in which four persons were killed, including a police officer.
The attack followed barely one week after unknown gunmen attacked another INEC office in the same State located at Oru West Local Government Area.
Within the last four months, the commission’s facilities across the country have been attacked for a record eight times.
Although the attacks on the commission’s offices have been occurring across the country, it is evident the INEC has become a prime target of attacks in the South-eastern States, raising fears regarding the forthcoming general elections in the zone.
Most of the attacks on INEC facilities around the South-east have been largely attributed to the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
However, IPOB has repeatedly denied their involvement in the attacks.
Attacks on INEC offices in Enugu State peaked in 2021.
Recall that on May 13 and 23, 2021, the INEC offices in Udenu and Igboeze South LGAs, respectively, were attacked by unknown gunmen/hoodlums, vandalising the commission’s facilities.
Again, in September 2021, the INEC’s office in Awgu Local Government Area of the State was put on fire by unknown persons.
Recently in July 2022, some suspected arsonists also destroyed the commission’s office in the Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of the State.
Early last year, around May 2021, two offices of the INEC were set on fire by unknown gunmen in Ebonyi State. The offices were located in Izzi and Ezza North local government areas of the State, respectively.
Within the same month, the INEC office in Ebonyi LGA office of the State was also razed down by unknown gunmen.
Another attack on the commission’s office in Izzi Local Government Area of the State was recorded in November 2022.
Imo State has largely had its own share of the attacks on the INEC offices across the country.
The Monday attack on the Commission’s State headquarters at Owerri is the third in the last 12 days.
Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State blamed the attack on unpopular politicians who are afraid of losing elections.
The incident followed the earlier attacks on INEC offices at Orlu and Oru West LGA offices on 1st December and 4th December 2022, respectively.
Recall that in May 2021, a building belonging to the INEC was also set ablaze in the State. This excludes the attack at its Ahiazu Mbaise LGA office in the same month.
However, perturbed by the incessant attacks on its offices and facilities across the country, which could harm the conduct of the 2023 general elections, at a meeting with stakeholders in Lagos last week, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman, lamented that the electoral body had lost so many of its facilities.
“In the last four months, five of our offices were attacked, buildings damaged, and materials were destroyed across the country.
“It is worrisome for us because we lost over 1990 ballot boxes, 399 voting cubicles, 24 generators, and quite a number of PVCs (65,699 in one incident), among many other items.
“These attacks must stop and the perpetrators prosecuted. Our responsibility is to conduct elections, and I want to assure Nigerians that we will recover from these attacks and that the lost materials will be replaced.
“We will continue to work with security agencies, traditional and community leaders, and well-meaning Nigerians to stop the attacks. But the ultimate solution is to arrest and prosecute the culprits,” he said.
Speaking to DAILY POST concerning the issue, a chieftain of the Labour Party, LP, in Enugu State, Hon Malachy Okey Onyechi, lamented that the ugly trend is capable of thwarting the nation’s democracy, saying it poses a great danger.
Hon Onyechi, who is also the party’s State House of Assembly candidate for Nsukka West Constituency in the forthcoming general election, urged the security agencies to beef up security around INEC offices and facilities, especially in the Southeast zone.
He said, “To me, it poses a lot of danger. It is an indication that some politicians are desperate to thwart our democracy and make sure that they win by all means. They are the people behind all these devilish acts.
“The recent one that happened in Imo State, you heard the governor of the State, Hope Uzodimma, telling us that politicians are behind the hoodlums vandalising INEC offices.
“I believe some of the politicians who want to thwart the process of democracy are the ones behind it, and it will definitely affect the INEC’s and federal government’s plan to ensure a free, fair, and credible election.
“But what we are just saying is that – we are urging the security agencies to beef up security around INEC offices and facilities.
“I give kudos to the security agencies for apprehending those involved in the perpetration of the ungodly act at the Imo state INEC office. They were able to track down the perpetrators.
“If other security agencies in different States could rise up to the challenge, I believe the dangers being posed by these hoodlums will be averted early enough, and we will have a smooth and free election.”