A week to the Nigerian presidential elections, the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Qua’anpan Local Government Area of Plateau State has gone up in flames.
Backstory: The Head of Voter Education and Publicity of the Commission in the Plateau State, Mr. Osaretin Imahiyereobo, reported that “ballot boxes, generators filled with fuel, cubicles, newly printed electronic and manual voters registers, unclaimed Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), materials for the preparations of RAC and other valuable materials were affected” in the incident.
He reported on Sunday that the incident had occurred late Saturday night.
A case of negligence: “It is true that our office in Qua’anpan has been gutted by fire caused by the negligence of a security man on duty who didn’t know how to operate the generator but wanted to put it on. The office is completely burnt to ashes with all the valuables in it destroyed,” Imahiyereobo said.
But INEC’s national office has a different theory: Unlike the Plateau office which put the fire down to the alleged negligence of a security man, the INEC headquarters believe that it was the work of arsonists.
A similar situation had only recently occurred at the INEC office in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government office in Abia State.
Festus Okoye, Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, gave a detailed breakdown of the damage wreaked by both fires in a statement late on Sunday.
He wrote: “Some of the items destroyed in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government include 2,979 Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and other materials.”
Adding that “At the Qua’an Pan office, items destroyed include 5987 uncollected Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), 380 Voting Cubicles, 755 ballot boxes, 14 generators, election forms, and official stamps.”
Okoye has said that the commission has raised the matter with the police chief, Mohammed Adamu, “of the emerging trend of the burning of the Local Government Offices of the Commission close to the conduct of the elections and at a period when the Commission is engaged in the massive movement of election-related materials nationwide.”
He assured Nigerians that the commission “will not succumb to the antics of arsonists whose motive might be to create fear in the minds of voters and sabotage the conduct of the 2019 general elections.”
He also stated that the commission has reprinted and delivered the PVCs of the affected registered voters in Isiala Ngwa South in Abia State and have also made temporary arrangements for the relocation of the burnt offices of the Commission.
He said that the offices will be ready for the conduct of the February 16 and March 2, 2019 elections.