The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said recent attacks on its facilities, if unchecked, may affect future polls.
The commission expressed concern, particularly with ongoing conversion of voting points to polling units, voter registration and the conduct of future elections.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, stated this in a statement in Abuja yesterday, while confirming the burning of its office in Essien Udim Local Government Area (LGA) of Akwa-Ibom State.
Okoye said Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom, Mike Igini, reported that INEC office in the LGA was set ablaze in the early hours of yesterday.
He said that the security guard on duty escaped unhurt, but that the destruction to the building and properties was extensive.
“Items destroyed include 345 ballot boxes, 135 voting cubicles, megaphones, water tanks and office furniture.The police, which have also been battling with attacks on its facilities and personnel in the area, are aware of the incident and have commenced investigation,” Okoye said.
The national commissioner recalled that on the eve of the 2019 General Election, INEC newly constructed prototype LGA office in Ibesikpo Asutan was burnt down while two more offices in Mkpat Enin and Eastern Obolo LGAs in Akwa Ibom State were bombed.
“The recent attack on our facility after we have just concluded the inventory of electoral materials nationwide in readiness for the 2023 General Election is worrisome.
“If unchecked, these attacks may constitute a setback on the Commission’s preparations, including the ongoing conversion of Voting Points to Polling Units, the forthcoming Continuous Registration of Voters (CRV) and the conduct of polls. Nevertheless, the Commission wishes to assure Nigerians that we will leave no stone unturned to recover from the incident in Akwa Ibom State as we continue to prepare for all electoral activities,” he said.
It was learnt that some armed hoodlums on motorcycles breached the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on Essien Udim and the adjoining local government areas of Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara, to launch the attack on INEC office yesterday at about 3am.
It was gathered that the hoodlums launched another attack on herdsmen leading their cattle on grazing and killed no fewer than 12 cattle, forcing the herdsmen to flee.
Chairman of Essien Udim Local Government, Mr. Anthony Luke, described the incident as unfortunate, giving the fact the local government has in the recent times become an epicenter of cults war with security agencies including the police, Customs and Army as well as government institutions as objects of attack.
A military operation against the hoodlums including land and aerial bombardments were launched against the hoodlums last month in their base in Ikot Akpan in Essien Udim council, and Luke believes the remnants who fled the operation have regrouped to continue the mayhem.