Suspected Hoodlums Set INEC’s Offices Ablaze in Ogun, Osun
*Commission summons emergency security meetings over attacks at parties’ campaign rallies
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and James Sowole in Abeokuta
Two offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were yesterday attacked and set ablaze in Ogun and Osun States by suspected hoodlums.
This was just as the Commission yesterday summoned a security meeting over reported attack on rallies and campaigns of political parties.
Precisely, the suspected hoodlums in the wee hours of Thursday, set INEC offices at Iyana Mortuary, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital on fire, while its Ede South Local Government Area office was attacked and some portions burnt by the hoodlums.
A statement by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Voters’ Education, Festus Okoye, stated that the rising incidents of attacks on supporters of various political parties since the commencement of campaign barely two months ago and the use of hate and incendiary language by some politicians were extremely disturbing.
The PDP presidential campaign rally was attacked in Maiduguri, where several vehicles were destroyed and persons were injured.
Also in Kaduna, the PDP presidential campaign was attacked three weeks ago.
Owing to these, Okoye said the Commission decided to convene an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), to discuss the disturbing trend.
Okoye also announced that two of its local government offices in Ogun and Osun States have been attacked
The statement by Okoye explained: “The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ogun State, Dr. Niyi Ijalaiye, reported that our office in Abeokuta South Local Government Area was attacked and set ablaze.
“The incident occurred around 1.15am when some unidentified persons overpowered the security personnel on duty and set the entire building ablaze.”
Furthermore, Okoye said the main building and all the Commission’s movable assets in the office were destroyed.
He listed items destroyed to include 904 ballot boxes, 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags, eight electric power generators and 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs).
THISDAY gathered that the suspected hoodlums, numbering about eight scaled the perimeter fence into the premises and set the INEC building on fire from the back.
They were said to have soaked loaves of bread with petrol and threw same into the building at different angles to light up the electoral body office.
The security guard at the facility, Azeez Hamzat, was said to have made a distress call to the police around 1:00am, informing the police of the incident.
The police from Ibara division were said to have mobilised detectives to the scene, while contacting fire fighters, who raced to the scene to put out the fire.
The Registration Area Officer’s office and the conference room were affected by the inferno.
A source also said non-sensitive materials were also affected by the fire.
Continuing, Okoye also said the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Osun State, Dr. Mutiu Agboke, reported that INEC’s office in Ede South Local Government Area was attacked and set ablaze.
According to him, the incident occurred in the early hours of Thursday when some unidentified persons attacked the building and set a portion of it ablaze.
Fortunately, he said, “the damage to our Ede South Local Government was limited to a section of the building and only some furniture items were destroyed.
“The attention of the Nigeria Police Force and other security and safety agencies has been drawn to the incidents and they have commenced investigation.
“With just 106 days to the 2023 General Election when the Commission has commenced the movement of materials to our offices nationwide, these simultaneous attacks are very worrisome indeed,”, Okoye said.
Okoye also said the Commission deliberated on the forthcoming display of the entire national register of voters for claims and objections by citizens as required by law and approved the methodology for the exercise.
Also, he said, “as earlier announced by the Commission, the entire preliminary register containing 93,522,272 registrants will be published. The exercise will last for two weeks, from 12th -25th November, 2022.
“The physical copies of the register will be displayed in all the 8,809 Registration Areas (Wards) and 774 Local Government Areas on polling unit basis nationwide.
“For the first time, the soft copy of the entire register will also be published on the Commission’s website (visit/www.inecnigeria.org/display_register and follow the instructions).
“The register will give the name, picture, date of birth and Voter Identification Number (VIN) of each registered voter. However, for data protection and security reasons, critical information such as biometric details, residential addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of voters will not be made public on both the physical and soft copies.”
He explained that during the display, “any person may make a claim that the name of a registered voter has been omitted, make corrections on his/her personal details on the register, raise an objection against the inclusion of any person not qualified to vote or the name of a dead person on the register.”
“As the exercise commences on Saturday 12th November 2022, we appeal to Nigerians to seize the opportunity to scrutinise the register and draw the Commission’s attention to any corrections in their personal particulars and any malicious registrations, multiple registrants, non-Nigerians or any other person not qualified to be on the register.
“Detailed clarification on the processes and procedures for the exercise, including relevant forms, can be obtained from the Commission’s officials at the points of display at Registration Areas (Wards) and Local Government Areas. The information has also been uploaded to the Commission’s website and social media platforms.
“By the provisions of the law, cleaning up the voters’ register is a collective national responsibility. So far, the Commission has weeded out ineligible registrants using our Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS). “By working together with citizens, we can clean the register further as it is the critical foundation for credible elections.”, Okoye explained.
Meanwhile, the Ogun INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Niyi Ijalaye, has confirmed the incident, describing it as shocking.
He said “It is correct that our office was set on fire. The police are investigating. I do not know what to say. I’m in shock myself. We called the police and other security agencies at night. The fire brigade put the situation under control. The level of damage is still being assessed.
“It is very shocking and untoward. The security agencies are doing their very best. We are meeting again later today to come up with other strategies (toward securing our facilities),” Ijalaye said.
The Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, could not be reached for comments as of the time of filing this report.