The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it had recorded 41 deliberate attacks on its facilities across the country within the last two years.
INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this at the commission’s emergency meeting with security agencies under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
Mr Yakubu said the attacks on the commission’s facilities should now be treated as a national security emergency.
“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 (the year President Muhammadu Buhari was releected) 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.”
Mr Yakubu said although the commission was assessing loss of materials during recent attacks, its preliminary assessment so far indicated that it lost 1,105 ballot boxes, 694 voting cubicles, 429 electric generating sets and 13 utility vehicles (Toyota Hilux).
He said by working together with the security agencies, INEC could stop these attacks and the wanton destruction of critical electoral assets.
“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,” Mr Yakubu said.
The INEC chairman stressed the need to ramp up ICCES activities to curtail 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.”
Mr Yakubu also stressed the need for the committee to tap into INEC facilities’ host communities’ goodwill in finding solutions to the present situation.
He said as a commission, INEC had been undertaking its own internal review of the situation and seeking answers.
He recalled that INEC met with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) last week and received briefings about the 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.”
Mr Yakubu expressed hope that the ICCES meeting would constitute a first step to finding a lasting solution to the current challenges, adding that to disrupt the electoral process was to undermine our democracy and destabilise the country.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, who is also Co-Chair of ICCES, said his office was working with other agencies to collaborate with INEC to sustain Nigeria democracy and the will of the people.
“As Nigerians, obviously we see a lot of activities and had lots of unwanted experiences which have affected the electoral process, activities, actions that have been carried out by non-state actors who are determined to scuttle this process which is supposed to be clean, transparent and allow the people self-determination.
“Of course, we are gathered here to look at means and ways of quickly stopping the rising spate of criminality, violence and destruction as a national effort.
“Of course, the Office of the NSA has always remained steadfast, resolute and unrelenting in supporting all activities of the INEC, as well as all agents of government who are compelled, not only by statutory means, to deal with anything that will disrupt what was started in 1999.
“We are at hand to make sure that the people’s will be sustained, regardless of whatever happened, regardless of any individual inclinations without cause hampered by a lot of non-state actors who are determined to dislodge this effort.
“I am hopeful that the outcome of this meeting will be very productive.
“We should be able to make some strides toward extinguishing whatever pleased our electoral and socio-political landscape,” Mr Monguno said.
The NSA encouraged all leaders of security agencies in the intelligence community to enhance efforts of operational elements that had been supporting their efforts.
The acting Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, pledged the commitment of the police to lead in policing elections and working with other security agencies.
He also pledged that the police at the state commands would also work with INEC RECs to replicate the collaboration at state levels for peaceful elections.
Mr Baba said whatever preparation INEC had put in place for an election, if there was not adequate security before, during and after the poll, it would not be successful.