CHAIRMAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has decried the persistent attacks on offices of the commission across the country, warning perpetrators to desist from it as the commission has no provision for endless replacement of damaged materials in its budget for the 2023 general election.
The INEC chairman gave the warning while speaking at a strategic interactive meeting which the commission held with media executives in Lagos on Saturday as part of preparations for next year’s elections.
He noted that in the last four months, no fewer than six offices of the commission had been attacked, with thousands of Permanents Voters Cards (PVCs) and other sensitive election materials, including 2,500 ballot boxes lost and 399 voting cubicles destroyed.
Professor Yakubu, who stated that the commission has recorded no fewer than 52 violations of the Electoral Acts so far, said: “We are in the critical phase of the 2023 general election. We are in the middle of the campaign and the tempo will keep on increasing as the date of the election draws nearer. Already, there are signs of both the positive and negative mobilisation for the election. On the positive side parties and candidates have been campaigning nationwide, including places in the country which the candidates have not visited for a long time.
“But on the flip side, we have been seeing a lot of negative mobilisation. And in some cases, it is even violence. As of November 9, 2022 barely two months out of the five months’ campaign period, we have tracked 52 incidents involving the use of abusive, inciting languages, denial of access to public facilities, destruction of campaign materials and even physical attacks, resulting in some cases to fatalities. For us, this is not a good omen. And I say this on several occasions, including at the last emergency meeting we had with security agencies, that a peaceful campaign heralds a peaceful election,” he stated.
“In the area of election security, the persistent attacks on our facilities nationwide are a big source of concern for us. Damage to our physical infrastructure, such as election materials and the threat to the safety and security of our officers worry us a lot. In the last four months, six of our local government offices were attacked, two in Enugu State and then the simultaneous attack in Abeokuta. Given the nature and manner in which the attacks were carried out, it means they were deliberately done.
“Already, we are making efforts to replace materials lost in the various attacks, but our ability to keep replacing damaged or destroyed materials in less than three months to the election is very limited. We have said we would replace the burnt PVCs and about 2,500 ballot boxes lost; we will replace the 399 voting cubicles destroyed. We will also replace the power generators, megaphones and all, but if these attacks continue, it will be very difficult for us to keep replacing the damaged materials, because there is no provision in the budget for endless replacement of damaged materials,” the INEC chair added.