83 Days to the 2023 Polls INEC Resists Worrisome Attacks

As the 2023 General Elections draws closer, pockets of attacks have emerged in different parts of Nigeria. In November 2022, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) confirmed attacks in Ebonyi, Ogun, and Osun states. 

On 27 November 2022, unidentified arsonists set fire to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in the Izzi local government area of Ebonyi State.

In a statement following the incident, Festus Okoye, the national commissioner and chairman of INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee, revealed that the incident occurred at around 10 a.m. in Izzi Local Government Area office in Iboko. 

Okoye also confirmed on Twitter that the resident electoral commissioner in the Ebonyi, Onyeka Ugochi, had informed INEC headquarters, Abuja, of the development. 340 ballot boxes and an unknown number of permanent voters cards (PVCs) were among the items lost in the attack. 

According to Okoye, ‘Although no casualties resulted from the attack, the main building and all the movable and immovable items inside it were destroyed.’ 

While the attack has been reported to the police and other security authorities, it calls for concern.  Similar attacks on the INEC’s offices in Ogun and Osun on the 10th of November preceded the attack in Ebonyi. 

In Ogun State, hoodlums attacked the INEC office at Abeokuta South local government area and destroyed over 65,000 uncollected PVCs, among other facilities. Resident electoral commissioner for Osun State, Dr Mutiu Agboke, also reported that INEC’s office in Ede South local government area was attacked and set ablaze by unidentified persons. 

According to Agboke, ‘the damage to our Ede South Local Government was limited to a section of the building and only some furniture items were destroyed.’  

On 29 November 2022, while speaking to the press at the site of the destruction, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said it will take two days to replace the 65,000 PVCs burnt during the attack in Ogun State. He added that: 

We want to assure the people of Abeokuta South that this incident, terrible as it is, will not deter and will not discourage us, will not discourage our staff from conducting the 2023 general elections and we want to once again assure the people of Abeokuta South, the people of Ogun State and the people of Nigeria that the commission is determined to make the 2023 elections our best ever; we will not be deterred, we cowed by the act of arson by undemocratic and retrogressive elements. 

In response to the attacks in Ebonyi, the state government said it would increase security at all INEC offices and other facilities throughout Ebonyi. Security consultant to the Government, Chief Stanley Emegha, highlighted this on Tuesday while outlining measures to prevent future attacks on INEC offices in the state. ‘Elections would be held in Ebonyi as scheduled, and the people would protect their votes. Anyone who destroys public facilities again in the state will meet his waterloo as the government would act decisively,’ Emegha said. 

With the 2023 General Elections being less than 100 days away, it is concerning that INEC offices have been attacked repeatedly. In addition to increasing political tension, such attacks suggest that certain political actors are interested in undermining the electoral process and, in turn, the process of selecting the new group of leaders who will run the nation’s affairs.  

It is worrisome that the lives of INEC staff members have been put in danger as a result of these attacks. This prevents them from being mentally prepared for the demanding duty of coordinating free and fair elections. However, Nigeria’s political landscape is no stranger to election-related violence. Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project shows that violence disrupted the last national elections in 2019, some of which was committed by military troops and police. Instances of violence were also reported during the local government elections in 2021, mainly in Anambra and Ekiti states.  

With the spate of attacks in the build up to the elections, voters may start to worry for their safety. These attacks may further encourage political apathy among citizens under the required voting age. 

INEC has assured Nigerians that the numerous assaults on its facilities in different regions of the nation will not in any way compromise the credibility of the general elections in 2023. INEC Chairman Prof. Yakubu provided this assurance while speaking to the press during his evaluation of the commission’s office in the recently burned-down Abeokuta South local government area

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