2023 POLL AND ATTACKS ON INEC FACILITIES
The attacks raise fresh doubts on the forthcoming elections
For the umpteenth time, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday expressed concern that persistent attacks on its facilities threaten the successful conduct of the 2023 general election. Since the 2019 general election, the electoral body has recorded 50 attacks in 15 states of the federation. “The ones we recorded in 2022 are the ones we considered systematic and coordinated,” said INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye. “They are targeted at derailing our commission from conducting free and credible elections. If these attacks continue to January and February next year, it will be difficult for us to recover. This is because if you look at section 134 of the constitution, there are thresholds that a candidate must meet before he/she can be declared a winner of any election.’’
We hope that relevant authorities will take seriously the warning by INEC and begin to put in place measures that will ensure credible election next year. In the past few months, the serial violence and arson against the personnel and facilities of the commission in some states, especially in the Southeast and South-south zones, has resulted in the destruction of buildings and vital election equipment as well as loss of lives. There have also been such attacks in the Southwest states of Ogun and Osun. What they signpost is an orchestrated attempt to derail the 2023 general election. Given that it will be difficult for INEC to mobilise men and materials amid killings, those behind these acts can only be agents of anarchy and disorder who should be fished out and treated as traitors and enemies of the state.
With critical infrastructure of the commission increasingly being targeted, recent attacks appear like a systematic assault meant to cripple INEC operations ahead of the 2023 general election. No doubt, the damage being wreaked on the assets of the electoral body infrastructure will impact negatively on its preparations for elections and that seems to be the objective of those behind the attacks. INEC Chairman, Mahmud Yakubu had warned last year that these attacks “are no longer freak events but appear to be quite orchestrated and targeted at INEC.” He added that the violence on the commission’s property was, “targeted at demobilising and dismantling critical electoral infrastructure in the country” and to undermine INEC capacity to organise elections.
The attacks are particularly hurting because the financial implications of replacing lost or damaged items in the prevailing economic environment is huge. For instance, shortly before the 2019 general election, 4,695 smart card readers loaded in two containers were destroyed along with other sensitive materials in a mysterious fire incident at the Anambra State headquarters of INEC. In May 2021 at Essien Udim local council of Akwa Ibom, some 345 ballot boxes, 135 voting cubicles, megaphones, water tanks and office furniture were razed. Since the culprits in these attacks were never caught, there are growing concerns about the impact of the damage on the capability of the electoral body to conduct elections under the current atmosphere. That bodes ill for the system.
The onus is now on the authorities to put in place measures that will forestall disruptions to upcoming electoral activities and safeguard the lives of innocent citizens. The implication of the targeted attacks is clear: If the federal government cannot protect strategic institutions like INEC, we may gradually be on our way to anarchy. While a combined technique of intelligence, law enforcement and special operations may help in containing the menace, it is also in the enlightened interest of our politicians to curb the attacks that could, if care is not taken, torpedo our democracy.