The Independent National Electoral Commission on Monday expressed concerns over what it described as unprovoked attacks on its offices, with Enugu State being the latest.
The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, in an interview with The PUNCH, said it was in the collective interest of Nigerians to protect the commission’s assets as much as they can.
He made the call just as the commission’s office in Igboeze North Local Government Area of Enugu State was set ablaze by suspected arsonists.
The incident, which happened on Sunday night, was said to have resulted in extensive damage to the building and stores section where election materials were kept.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in a statement on Monday, said the arsonists overpowered the security guards, forced their way into the premises and set the building ablaze.
Okoye said, although no casualties were reported, 748 ballot boxes, 240 voting cubicles, office furniture and equipment were destroyed in the fire.
“The commission is working to ascertain the status of voter registration machine for the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration exercise as well as uncollected Permanent Voter Cards locked up in the fireproof cabinet,” he said.
Confirming the incident in statement on Monday, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Daniel Ndukwe, said the state Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Lawal, had ordered the State Criminal Investigation Department to investigate the cause.
However, Oyekanmi attributed the attacks on the commission’s assets to those he described as enemies of democracy.
He said, “The commission is concerned about unprovoked attacks on our offices, with Enugu State being the latest. However, we have reported the matter to the Police and we are confident that the security agencies are capable of solving the mystery behind all those hiding under the cover of darkness to launch these unprovoked attacks.
“But the commission will not be deterred. We will continue to prepare rigorously for the 2023 general election. The assets being destroyed are public assets that were procured with enormous public funds. The assets are for election purposes, to be utilised by Nigerians who seek to elect their representatives through elections.
“Therefore, it is in our collective interest as Nigerians to protect the commission’s assets as much as we can. An attack on any of the commission’s assets in any part of the country could be described as a deliberate action by the enemies of democracy and due process, aimed at disenfranchising eligible voters in the area attacked. The purpose, clearly, is to prevent them from joining the rest of the country to cast their ballots on Election Day.”