From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has lamented recording 50 attacks during campaign rallies across 21 States, warning that the trend potends serious threat to next year’s general elections.
Expressing worries over the spate, the commission warned that if urgent and decisive steps are not taken, the attacks may intensify as the election date approaches.
INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who raised the alarm in his remarks at an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election (ICCES) in Abuja on Friday, however, promised to reprint the 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) burnt during the Ogun inferno.
He pleaded with the security agencies to take decisive steps to stem the ugly trend from further escalating, stressing: “turning to the spate of physical attacks during the ongoing political campaigns and rallies, the commission has so far tracked 50 incidents across 21 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
“These unhappy occurrences are coming just a little over one month into the election campaign which is scheduled to last for about five months from September 28, 2022 to 23rd February 2023 for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and from October 12, 2022 to March 11, 2023 for State elections (governorship and Houses of Assembly).
“The commission is worried that if no urgent and decisive steps are taken, the attacks will intensify as we approach the election date. As we all know, a peaceful campaign heralds a peaceful election. We need to take decisive steps to stem the ugly trend.
“As a body, the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) brings together security, safety and other agencies responsible for securing the process and ensuring peaceful elections in Nigeria. Understandably, Nigerians expect a 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,” he appealed.
Speaking further, he said; “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,” he promised.
On the burnt PVCs, Yakubu said: “two developments this week necessitated this meeting. First, the simultaneous attacks on our Local Government Area offices in Abeokuta South in Ogun State and Ede South Local Government office in Osun State.
“Our immediate conclusion is that they may not be isolated, but we leave this determination to the security agencies who are investigating the incidents. Secondly, the spate of attacks during electioneering campaigns by political parties is increasing rather than decreasing.
“While the damage in the attack in Ede South was minimal, that of Abeokuta South was extensive. Materials destroyed include 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, eight electric power generators, 57 election bags, 30 megaphones, 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and a host of other assorted items such as stamps and stamp pads.
“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. Similarly, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ogun State has been directed to compile the Voter Identification Numbers (VINs) of all the 65,699 Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) lost in the attack from our 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,” he said.
Meanwhile, the commission has dismissed the speculated plot to abandon the transmission of polling unit results to IREV portal.
“Our attention has been drawn to reports of alleged plans by the commission to rig the 2023 general election by abandoning the direct and real-time electronic upload of polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal by the Registration Area Technical Support Staff (RATECHSS).
“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 (BVAS) and IReV have come to stay for voter accreditation and uploading of polling unit results in real-time in Nigeria,” the commission noted in the statement signed by National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye on Friday.
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