MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has ruled out the possibility of postponing the Anambra Governorship Election scheduled to hold on November 6, 2021 even as large scale insecurity has been manifest in recent time in the state.
This decision was announced today by the Chairman of the Commission Prof. Mahmood Yakubu during an emergency meeting of the inter-agency consultative committee on election security (ICCED) in Abuja.
The INEC boss drew participants’ attention to earlier concerns raised by members with respect to the security situation in Anambra in particular and the adjoining States in general and how this might affect preparations and possibly the conduct of the election.
He noted with regret that the situation has deteriorated markedly since their last meeting as many innocent lives have been lost and property destroyed.
According to him “from the reports we have received, the stated goal of many of the attackers is that the Governorship election scheduled for 6th November 2021 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.
“Recall that in May this year, our State Office at Awka was attacked and all the non-sensitive materials assembled for the election at the time were destroyed. In addition, our store, collation centre and the main office building were either totally or substantially damaged.
The Commission also lost several vehicles to be used for the election.
However, he expressed happiness that “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.
“The Commission is particularly concerned about the safety of voters and Election Day staff, including security officials who have also become the targets of these attacks. The thousands of young Nigerians that we intend to deploy for the election, most of them National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members and university students, need to be reassured of their personal safety.
“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 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 thirty-two (32) days from today.
The INEC boss added that “perhaps never before in our history has the importance of election security in a Governorship election been this urgent. The Commission is aware that this is by no means an easy task. We appreciate the enormous challenges that the security agencies are currently facing in Anambra State, which entail not only securing the electoral process, but also enforcing law and order generally. 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. We will continue to work with the security agencies and in consultation with respected opinion leaders in Anambra State and the National Peace Committee to ensure that these hit-and-run attacks do not derail the electoral process.
“We wish to assure the people of Anambra State that the Com
mission is determined to proceed with the election as scheduled. To underscore this determination, the Commission is implementing two more activities on the Timetable for the election in the next few days.
According to Yakubu, “the register of voters will be presented to political parties in Awka on Thursday 7th October 2021. On the same day, the Commission will publish the final list of candidates for the election.
“We are confident that at the end of this meeting, we will firm up on specific measures necessary to further guarantee the safety of all persons involved in the election from the voters, election officials, observers, media organisations and the security of election materials,” he emphasised.