Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, warned that a disruption to the electoral process would undermine Nigerian democracy and destabilise the country.
Yakubu made this known at an emergency meeting with security agencies, under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, in Abuja on Thursday over the serial attacks on the commission’s offices and facilities especially in the south-eastern part of the country.
The Federal government has, however, vowed to deal with criminals attacking INEC.
Yakubu said, “No doubt, the last few weeks have been very challenging to the commission. The spate of arson and vandalisation targeting the commission’s facilities and property has become a major threat to our scheduled activities and the entire electoral process.
“In the last two years, the commission has recorded a total of 41 incidents involving deliberate attacks on the commission’s facilities. Nine of these incidents happened in 2019 and 21 cases in 2020. In the last four weeks, 11 offices of the commission were either set ablaze or vandalised. Two of these incidents were caused by Boko Haram and bandit attacks, while 10 resulted from thuggery during election and post-election violence.
“However, the majority of the attacks – 29 out of 41 – were unrelated to election or electoral activities. In fact, 18 of them occurred during the #EndSARS protests in October last year, while 11 attacks were organised by ‘unknown gunmen’ and ‘hoodlums.’”
The INEC boss said the commission was assessing loss of materials to recent attacks, with the preliminary assessment so far indicating that 1,105 ballot boxes, 694 voting cubicles, 429 electric generating sets and 13 utility vehicles – Toyota Hilux pick-up vans – had been lost.
“By working together with the security agencies, we can stop these attacks and the wanton destruction of critical electoral assets,” he stated.
Yakubu further said, “These attacks, which initially appeared as isolated and occasional actions, have now become more frequent and systematic targeted at demobilising and dismantling critical electoral infrastructure in the country.
“This will not only undermine the commission’s capacity to organise elections and other electoral activities but will also damage the nation’s electoral process and democracy. Indeed, these attacks on the Commission’s facilities should now be treated as a national security emergency.
At the meeting were the Acting Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman; Chief of Defence Staff, Lt.-Gen. Lucky Irabor, other Service Chiefs; Director-General, Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi; Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Ahmed Audi; Controller-General of the Federal Fire Service, Ibrahim Liman; Controller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa; and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, some of whom sent representatives.