Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state today visited the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gutted by fire and described the incident as unfortunate and shocking.
The fire incident which gutted the office at about 830pm burnt over 5114 card readers meant for the October 10 governorship election in the state.
Akeredolu who paid an unscheduled visit to the Alagbaka office of the commission in Akure said it was not only an unfortunate incident but equally shocking especially when the governorship election in the state is at the corner.
He charged the commission to unravel the cause of the fire incident.
The governor however commended the determination of the commission to still conduct the forthcoming governorship despite the ugly incident and assured that the state government would be ready to render assistance to the commission in any area where it would not be termed as being partisan.
“As you promised us that by the grace of God the election will still be held on that day, that is soothingly, but it will be at a great cost to INEC because for you to replace all those card readers it would be at great cost.
“We sympathise with you and we want INEC to know that the people of this state are really concerned and are with you at this point in time in this calamitous situation.
“We are with you and whatever you think we can do that will not be termed as being partisan because whatever we do now could be misinterpreted since we are in an election period, but no doubt we have to come as government and not as contestants
“I can see the determination from how you spoke that the election will still hold on the 10th of October, we are so sorry about this”
He noted that the fire must have been very serious following offensive smokes emanating from the scene at sixteen hours thereafter.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ambassador Rufus Akeju while addressing a press conference in Akure denied that the fire incident was a ploy to collusion with any political party to rig the election.
Akeju said the allegation was baseless and unfortunate.
According to him, the fire incident started “between 7.15 pm and 7.30 pm when most of the Commission staff had gone home.
“The fire incident actually affected the Smart Card Readers Store. In all, 5,141 Card Readers that were inside the Metal compartment (Store) when the fire erupted were completely destroyed.
“The gallant display of firemen from Ondo State fire service and the Federal Fire Service prevented the inferno from spreading to other parts of the office building.
“Up till now, the actual cause of the fire is unknown but relevant security agencies have commenced an investigation and you will be further briefed as events unfold.
” Let me use this medium to allay the fears of the electorate, political parties and our stakeholders and the good people of Ondo State that the fire incident will not affect the conduct of the forthcoming Gubernatorial Election in Ondo State in any form neither will it lead to the postponement of the Election.
The REC noted that” necessary arrangements have been put in place for the replacement of the damaged materials.
“Let me reiterate that our determination to conduct a free, fair, credible, and successful election remains undaunted.
“We shall not rest on our oars as an Election Management Body to always pursue the Vision and Mission of being an EMB that meets the aspirations of the Nigerian people.
He expressed appreciation to the men and officers of the Ondo State Fire Service, Federal Fire Service Akure, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Akure Nigeria, and the Federal Fire Service, Ilesha for coming to our aids at our time of need.