In the last two years, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has recorded a total of 41 incidents involving deliberate attacks on the Commission’s facilities.
Chairman of INEC the Commission, Prof Yakubu Mahmood made the disclosure during an emergency meeting with security agencies under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee On Election Security (ICCES) in Abuja.
He disclosed that of the 41 incidents, nine happened in 2019 and 21 cases in 2020 while in the last four weeks, 11 offices of the Commission were either set ablaze or vandalised.
Read full speech::
The National Security Adviser and Co-Chairman of ICCES
Heads of various security agencies and other members of ICCES
Honourable National Commissioners of INEC
Senior Officials of INEC
Members of the INEC Press Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen
1.. I am pleased to welcome all members of ICCES to this emergency meeting. I want to specifically welcome the Acting Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, to his first ICCES meeting in his new capacity. May I also welcome the Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Lucky Irabor, other Service Chiefs, the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Controller-General of the Federal Fire Service (FFS) and the Controller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) who are attending this meeting for the first time since their appointment. On this note, let me welcome the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, who is also attending the meeting for the first time. I congratulate you all on your appointment and we look forward to having the benefit of your vast and varied experiences as we continue to work jointly in the national interest to ensure that elections in Nigeria are not only free and fair, but secure and safe.
2. Sadly, this emergency meeting originally scheduled for Monday this week had to be rescheduled. The death in active service of a member of this Committee, the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru, was a tragic loss to the nation. May I, on behalf of the Commission and ICCES, extend our condolences to the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force for the loss of the COAS and other officers. It was indeed a monumental loss and we pray that God will grant them eternal rest and comfort their families.
3. As I said on several occasions, elections and electoral activities in Nigeria have become all-year round undertaking. Since the conclusion of the 2019 General Election, the Commission, working with the security agencies, has so far conducted four end-of-tenure Governorship elections and 28 out of 32 bye-elections. On this note, may I also extend our condolences to the Inspector-General of Police and other security agencies for the loss of their personnel on electoral duty, the most recent of which occurred during the Ekiti East State constituency bye-election on 20th March 2021. May God comfort their families as well as the families of voters who lost their lives during that election. The Commission has already indefinitely suspended the bye-election.
4. In the next nine months, two major elections will be conducted. The Anambra State Governorship election is scheduled to hold on 6th November 2021 to be followed by the end-of-tenure elections for 68 Area Council constituencies in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) holding on 12th February 2022. These major elections will be followed by the Ekiti and Osun State Governorship elections ahead of the 2023 General Election which is just 632 days away. In addition to elections, the Commission is also preparing for the resumption of the nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise on 28th June 2021 to enable Nigerians who have attained the age 18 years and those who did not register previously to do so. Similarly, registered voters who wish to change their voting locations and those who wish to correct their names and other details on their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) can do so. We plan to create 2,673 registration centres and deploy 5,346 officials for the exercise along with expensive voter enrollment machines. All these activities require security, thereby adding to the urgency and importance of this meeting.
5. No doubt, the last few weeks have been very challenging to the Commission. The spate of arson and vandalisation targeting the Commission’s facilities and property has become a major threat to our scheduled activities and the entire electoral process. In the last two years, the Commission has recorded a total of 41 incidents involving deliberate attacks on the Commission’s facilities. Nine of these incidents happened in 2019 and 21 cases in 2020. In the last four weeks, 11 offices of the Commission were either set ablaze or vandalised. Two of these incidents were caused by Boko Haram and Bandit attacks while 10 resulted from thuggery during election and post-election violence. However, the majority of the attacks (29 out of 41) were unrelated to election or electoral activities. In fact, 18 of them occurred during the EndSARS protests in October last year while 11 attacks were organised by “unknown gunmen” and “hoodlums”.
6. Although the Commission is assessing loss of materials during recent attacks, our preliminary assessment so far indicate that we lost 1,105 ballot boxes, 694 voting cubicles, 429 electric generating sets and 13 utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux). By working together with the security agencies, we can stop these attacks and the wanton destruction of critical electoral assets.
7. These attacks, which initially appeared as isolated and occasional actions, have now become more frequent and systematic targeted at demobilising and dismantling critical electoral infrastructure in the country. This will not only undermine the Commission’s capacity to organise elections and other electoral activities but will also damage the nation’s electoral process and democracy. Indeed, these attacks on the Commission’s facilities should now be treated as a national security emergency.
8. Under the auspices of ICCES, we should ramp up our activities to curtail these unjustifiable acts of aggression. This will entail not only drawing on our separate and collective resources within ICCES, but also increased collaboration with citizens, communities and all stakeholders. I must place on record the support to the Commission from communities we serve across the country. Among many other things, they have donated land to locate many of the Commission’s facilities, provided voluntary assistance during electoral activities like registration of voters and even donated materials such as chairs and shelter during elections. Even in the context of recent destruction of INEC facilities, some of these communities have offered to rebuild our offices and to help protect them going forward. We should tap into this goodwill in finding solutions to the present situation.
9. As a Commission, we have been undertaking our own internal review of the situation and seeking answers. On Wednesday last week, the Commission met with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) and received briefings about these rising threats. We are presently compiling the useful suggestions from the meeting and other internal review, which we hope to share with this body in due course. I understand that the security agencies are doing their own individual assessments. Beyond Election Day security, we look forward to creating a framework for an all-year round, end-to-end protection of electoral facilities under the auspices of ICCES.
10. I hope that this meeting will constitute a first step to finding a lasting solution to the current challenges. To disrupt the electoral process is to undermine our democracy and destabilise the country.
11. Once again, I welcome to all to this meeting. Thank you and God bless.