The House of Representatives yesterday set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the attacks on the offices, facilities and infrastructure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as other public government buildings.
This came as INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu said only the timely arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of attacks will put a stop to the ugly trend. The lower chamber condemned the attacks, asking the police and other law enforcement agencies to work with the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami to identify, arrest, investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.
The committee, headed by Oluga Taiwo (APC, Osun), is to investigate the remote and immediate cause of the incessant firebombing of INEC offices in different parts of the country and report back within three weeks for further legislative action. The House urged politicians and the police to uphold the various peace accords signed across the countries, as it told the police to “avoid being partisan in the provision of security for politicians and other stakeholders”.
The resolutions followed amendments to a motion sponsored by Olarewaju Kunle which was adopted at plenary. Presenting the motion, Kunle said the frequent systemic arson and attacks on INEC personnel, offices and facilities are targeted at crippling the commission and scuttling the 2023 general election. He said between February 2019 and May 2021, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) reported at least 41 arsons on INEC facilities in 14 states. Kunle said: “On 10 November 2022 the INEC office in Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State, was set ablaze by hoodlums with not less than 65,000 uncollected PVCs razed down by the fire.
“In 2019, a single PVC was estimated to cost about N170, 000 which may cost more for the commission to produce, alongside the main building, movable assets and facilities such as 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags, 8 electric power generators and 65,699 uncollected PVCs which were reportedly destroyed by unidentified persons at the Abeokuta South Local Government Office.”
He said on the same day thugs set ablaze an INEC building in Oke Iresi, Ede South Local Government of Osun State. Kunle said: “The House is also worried that if these systematically orchestrated attacks on personnel and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission are not checked, the actions are capable of disrupting the 2023 general election.” Speaking at the opening of a two-day Induction Retreat for Residents Electoral Commissioners in Lagos yesterday, Yakubu condemned a spate of attacks on their facilities, saying in the last four months, their offices in five local governments were attacked by unknown persons.
He said: “These facilities include a total of 1,992 ballot boxes, 399 voting cubicles and 24 electric power generators as well as thousands of uncollected PVCs, among many other items. “These attacks must stop and the perpetrators prosecuted. Our responsibility is to conduct elections and I want to assure Nigerians that we will recover from these attacks and the lost materials will be replaced. “We will continue to work with security agencies, traditional and community leaders, and we’ll urge Nigerians to stop the attacks. But the ultimate solution is to arrest and prosecute the culprits.” The INEC chief added: “One of the most painful is the recent attack in Ebonyi State. Staff relocated to the office on Friday and on Sunday the facility was attacked.” He insisted that no one will be allowed to vote in 2023 without their Permanent Voter Card (PVC). “Any Nigerian who wishes to vote on Election Day must present his or her PVC to the presiding officer at the polling unit. The policy hasn’t changed and we will be the last to violate the Electoral Act. Nigerians should discountenance the insinuation that people can vote on Election Day without PVC.”