Nigeria: Security Threat to 2023 Polls – How to End Attacks On INEC Facilities – Security Experts

… We will recover but attacks must cease, arsonists dealt with –Yakubu, INEC chairman

DISTURBED by the recurring attacks on the offices and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, across the country, which could harm the conduct of the 2023 general elections, security experts have profferred solutions to the problem.

Since the last general elections the INEC’s facilities had been attacked 52 times across 29 states of the country.

At a meeting with stakeholders in Lagos, last week, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman, lamented that “in the last four months, five of our offices were attacked, buildings damaged, and materials were destroyed across the country.”

He continued: “It is worrisome for us because we lost over 1990 ballots boxes, 399 voting cubicles, 24 generators, and quite a of number of PVCs (65,699 in one incident) among many other items.

“These attacks must stop and the perpetrators prosecuted. Our responsibility is to conduct elections and I want to assure Nigerians that we will recover from these attacks and the lost materials will be replaced.

“We will continue to work with security agencies, traditional and community leaders, and well meaning Nigerians to stop the attacks. But the ultimate solution is to arrest and prosecute the culprits.”

Latest attacks

The latest attacks on INEC offices include the simultaneous attacks in Ogun and Osun on November 10, 2022; the Ebonyi State attack of November 26; and Imo State (Orlu and Oru LGAs) on December 1 and 2, 2022 respectively.

In the Ogun State arson, 904 election boxes and 65,699 uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), 29 voting cubicles, 30 megaphones, 57 election bags and three electric power generators were burnt.

Cost of replacing facilities

Replacing the facilities and buildings will come at an extra cost to the detriment of the nation.

In the past, the INEC estimated that each card reader cost N167,063 while each memory card cost N6,000. Today, the cost will be much higher, given the depreciation of the Naira against foreign currencies.

Security practitioners offer expert advice

Worried by the ugly development, security professionals, in chats with Saturday Vanguard, enumerated measures that can avert the attacks.

INEC offices are porous, insecure — Nnachi

A former Chief Security Officer of Access Bank and currently a security consultant, Dr. Felix Amah Nnachi, said: “I do not understand why a sensible person should burn down an INEC facility. However, the problem is that in this country, we often do not take seriously the protection of certain public facilities, otherwise all those INEC offices should be well protected. We have the police, civil defence and soldiers. If necessary, we could create army check points around every INEC office to guide the facilities. The whole place is porous and the perpetrators always cash in on the porosity to attack.

“The situation is high considering the fact that where these acts take place, election may not hold and some people automatically will be disenfranchised. We need to ensure that the 2023 election is conducted in a free, fair and transparent atmosphere.

Muzzling opposition

“Another thing I see as causing the arson is the fact that there is no level playing ground for the opposition parties. For example, in a state governed by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, they muzzle up other parties and same in states controlled by the All Progressives Congress, APC, opposition parties are muzzled.

National decision

“Therefore a national decision must be taken to halt this ugly trend. We should start playing politics properly the way it is played in civilized world without element of gangsterism.

‘Govt doing nothing about it’

To the Managing Director of Kontz Engineering Limited, Engr. Mustapha Lusty, an electronic security chieftain, it is very wrong for people to wake up and go about burning INEC facilities. It becomes more hopeless in a situation where the perpetrators are not arrested and brought to book. Government seems not to be doing anything about it. One could recall that the Boko Haram insurgency started much in the same way because they were doing it and went scot-free. Some times, they would be arrested, got bail and nothing would happen.

“Perpetrators of crime should not go unpunished. INEC should invest in perimeter security, fire detection alarm system, put thermal radar in place to show that they capture anybody within their premises particularly unwanted persons.

“When incident of arson occurs, they should be seriously publicised, get the perpetrators arrested and be brought to book. When we start doing so, people will begin to run away from such acts and they would no longer get near INEC facility any more.

INEC not doing enough

“I see unseriousness on the part of INEC which is yet to come to terms with this ugly development. I see the arson as waste of resources whereas INEC has what it takes to nip the trend in the bud. INEC is becoming highly incompetent in protecting the trust given to the public. To me, I see INEC as part of the act. It is deliberate otherwise why is it that after the first incident, nobody was fired, no disciplinary action was taken. It continued else where and same thing happened. I feel INEC management is an accomplice in the entire saga.”

We don’t learn from experience –Amuta

A security consultant and retired army colonel, Dan Amuta, speaking in the same vein with Engr. Lusty said Nigerians hardly learn from experience or from past occurrences. He wondered why INEC management should allow its offices to continue to be burnt after the first incident.

According to him: “We must be proactive in the things we do. We must be ahead of the enemy because the enemy is not sleeping. We must have the foreknowledge of how to protect the facilities before the enemy.”

Attacks show lack of credibility in the system –Okonkwo

A former Commandant with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, and currently in private security practice; Dr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, said the only way the arson can be stopped is to put a proper security measure in place.

To him, the implication of the incessant burning of INEC facilities for Nigeria is not too good for the fact that we are in electoral season. Burning down the offices shows that there is no credibility in the system and that is why people are burning it down. Moreso, not only the people generally but the real people who are not interested in handing over power could be the brains behind those burning down of the offices so that the elections would not hold.

Cardinal principles of security

“I would say that to stop any further burning down of the INEC facilities is to apply the four cardinal principles of security one of which is surveillance. Once a good surveillance system is in place, they would be able to detect any criminality that tends towards burning down of facilities. Once it is detected, it would be communicated; and a counter measure would be applied and control exerted.

Politicians fingered

While describing the incessant burning of INEC facilities as condemnable in this time of electioneering, the Chief Executive Officer of Safety Signatures; a consulting firm; Dr. Cynthia Gregg, said the act may likely be the handiwork of agents of some of the politicians, who do not want the 2023 election to hold.

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