Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electrical Commission (INEC), has expressed concern over what it described as escalating security threats in Anambra, ahead of the November 6 governorship election.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu expressed the concern at an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in Abuja on Tuesday.
The meeting comes amid escalating attacks by gunmen who appear to be determined to scuttle the election.
Yakubu said that during the last ICCES quarterly meeting on Sept. 9, major concern was raised by the committee on the security situation in Anambra and the adjoining states.
He said the concern was raised on how the situation might affect preparations and possibly the conduct of the Anambra election.
Yakubu said that unfortunately, the situation had deteriorated since the last meeting, as many innocent lives had been lost and property destroyed in the state, Vanguard reported.
“From reports that we have received, the stated goal of many of the attackers is that the governorship election scheduled for Nov. 6 must not hold.
“This is worrisome for the commission. We are deeply concerned that specific electoral facilities and materials could once more become targets of attack,” he said.
Yakubu said that in May 2021the INEC office at Awka was attacked and all the non-sensitive materials assembled for the election were destroyed.
He added that the commission’s store, collation centre and the main office building were either totally or substantially damaged, while INEC also lost several vehicles billed for the election.
“Happily, we have almost fully recovered from that attack. The destroyed buildings have either been completely repaired or are nearing completion and we have fully replaced the materials destroyed.
“This rapid recovery has only been possible because this is an off-season election. We have sourced some of these materials such as the 326 electric generators and vehicles destroyed in the attack from neighbouring states.
“However, should we again lose vital materials and facilities, the ongoing preparations will be adversely affected,” he said.
Yakubu said that INEC was particularly concerned about the safety of voters and election duty staff, including security officials who have also became targets of the attacks.
He said that INEC was also concerned about safety of thousands of young Nigerians from National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and university students who were to be engaged in the conduct of the election.
“At the same time, deployment for the election will involve the movement of huge consignments of sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the 21 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state, 326 wards or Registration Areas and 5,720 Polling Units.
“That means over 6,000 locations to be protected.
“If we add that to about 26,000 officials that will be deployed for the election, we begin to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge of securing the Anambra Governorship election which is only 32 days from today,” he said.
Yakubu appreciated the enormous challenges that the security agencies were facing in Anambra which entailed not only securing the electoral process, but also enforcing law and order.
“This is particularly worrisome because the security agencies have also become prime targets of these mindless attacks.
“It is in the light of these recent and seemingly escalating threats to the election that the commission has convened this emergency meeting,” he said.
Yakubu, while assuring that the process of the election would proceed as scheduled, said that INEC would continue to work with security agencies and respected opinion leaders in the state to ensure the success of the election.
He said that to underscore the determination, INEC would implement two more activities on the timetable for the election in the next few days.
These according to him, includes the presentation of register of voters to political parties in Awka and publication of final list of candidates for the election on Thursday, Oct. 7.
He expressed confident that at the end of the meeting, INEC would firm up on specific measures to guarantee the safety of all the people to be involved in the election from voters, election officials, observers and media organisations among others.
In his remark, the National Security Adviser (NSA) and Co- Chairman of ICCES, Retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, said that his office was working with all security agencies in the country to address the security situation in the South East.
Monguno, represented by Mr Sanusi Galadima, reiterate the Federal Government commitment for the protection of lives and property of all law abiding citizens before, during and after the elections, according to Vanguard.