Chuks Okocha in Abuja and James Sowole in Akure
No fewer than 5,100 card readers were destroyed thursday in a fire that razed the Ondo State Headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Akure, the state capital.
The fire occurred one month to the October 10 governorship election in the state.
Before yesterday’s incident, the commission was already preparing for the smooth conduct of the poll.
The cause of the inferno was unknown as at the time of filing this report but it was gathered that the fire also destroyed other essential materials.
The news of the inferno attracted men of the Ondo State Police Command, other security agents and some INEC officials.
The area was immediately cordoned off as security men prevented human and vehicle movements around the premises.
The INEC Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, told journalists at the scene of the incident, that the fire affected the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) section of the commission.
He added that over 5,100 card readers were burnt in the inferno.
He said the burnt card readers comprised 1,000 units delivered to INEC from Osun State and the over 4,000 belonging to the INEC in Ondo State.
He said though the incident was a setback but “it will not affect the governorship election.”
THISDAY gathered that men of the state fire service were not on the ground at the scene to put out the fire but the fire service men from the Akure Airport arrived at 9:20 pm.
However, no life was lost in the incident.
The Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, also confirmed the incident in a short statement titled: ‘Fire at INEC office in Akure.’
He noted that the commission would commence an immediate investigation into the cause of the fire.
He said: “Fire broke out today (Thursday) September 10, 2020, at the Ondo State Head Office of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Akure.
“The inferno, which gutted the container housing smart card readers, started at 7.30 pm. Men of the fire service are, however, currently containing the fire.
“INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, who is in Ondo State in connection with preparations for the Ondo State governorship election scheduled for October 10,2020, rushed to the office about 8 pm.
“The Administrative Secretary of the state, Mr. Popoola, and some staff of the commission are also there.
“Okoye said an investigation into the cause of the fire will commence promptly after the fire has been contained.”