As the 2023 general elections draw near, recent data have revealed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has so far recorded 50 attacks on its facilities across 15 states in the last four years.
The analysis showed that Imo had the highest attacks on INEC facilities with 11 incidents, followed by Osun, seven; Akwa-Ibom, five; Enugu, five; Ebonyi, four; Cross River, four; Abia, four; Anambra, two; Taraba, two; Borno, one; Ogun, one; Lagos, one; Bayelsa, one; Ondo, one; and Kaduna, one.
The breakdown showed that in 2019, the commission recorded eight attacks; 2020, 22 attacks; 2021, 12 attacks and in 2022, eight attacks, all of which happened in Osun, Ogun, Lagos, Ondo, Bayelsa, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Enugu, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Borno, and Taraba States.
In 2019, its facilities were attacked in Osun, Bayelsa, Imo, and Akwa-Ibom. In 2020, its offices in Osun, Ondo, Lagos, Imo, Abia, Cross River, Anambra, Borno, and Taraba were affected. In 2021, Kaduna, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia, and Akwa-Ibom States were not spared.
The nature of the incidents include arson, 20; vandalisation, 26; and arson and vandalisation, four. The data further revealed that 20 of the attacks were caused by gunmen and hoodlums; EndSARS protest trigged 18 attacks; thuggery during elections, six; post-election violence, four; bandit attack, one; and Boko Haram attack, one.
These attacks have become worrisome and experts have called for more security in INEC offices, and awareness training organised for the staff of the commission.
Aremu Sodiq, a security expert said these attacks should be expected, and INEC staff should be trained on ways they can secure themselves and delicate properties in INEC offices across the country.
“Well, such things should be expected, whether there’s any intelligence or not. It is an election period and all the candidates want to emerge, hence different strategies may be pulled by them, the shadow parties, or even the opponent and make it look like the person or party they want to incriminate. Protection of life and property is not only the responsibility of the security agencies but also individual responsibility. In order to detect and deter a crime, everyone has a role to play directly or indirectly.
“On the part of the staff of INEC, both the full-time workers and the adjunct staff should be training for them where they will be oriented on the safety of their lives and the property of the INEC. They should be aware of the emergency situation that may arise and the best way to tackle it (risk management and mitigation) “He said.
Mr Sodiq noted that Crime Prevention Through Environmental Designs (CPTED) should be initiated as it is a modern way of preventing crime against individuals or organizations. He said that the INEC offices should be in a good and open location, not where it would be hard for people to notice if anything is going on.
“The road leading to the office should be good and easy for diversion should in case of emergency when agencies like the fire service, police, or any other emergency personnel will need to get there asap, and also the movement of road users needs to be diverted. CPTED also includes the installation of CCTV; a 24/7 monitoring system and has to be IP Cameras that can be accessed remotely Access Check Point for staff and visitors; many times trouble comes in through an insider. Proper Illumination and Fire Hydrant Installation”
He said security risk will be reduced to the barest minimum if also there is strict monitoring and compliance. Sodiq opined that those who are monitoring the activities also need to be monitored.
He advised an increase in the number of security personnel drawn from government agencies and private guard personnel, also adding that information should be stored electronically and saved to the cloud timely to avoid the loss of information.
“Storage of information is another aspect that is also crucial. Attackers or criminals work with information, either they have gotten information or they are searching for information. And at this point in time, we can’t afford to lose track” he said
Also reacting, Mr. Adams Abuh, Security and Intelligence Consultant and Managing Director/CEO, Otiyeke Universal Security, expressed worries over the adverse effect these attacks can leave on the 2023 elections if not curbed.
Mr Abuh who tagged these attacks as unprecedented said it is a major challenge to our democracy and the conduct of free and fair elections in 2023 and would increase voter apathy across different parts of the country.
“It is something that is very worrisome because there is no indication that they are going to relent. So it is a major challenge to our democracy and the conduct of free and fair elections in 2023. Apart from the destruction they are carrying out, a lot of people has been frightened, you might be surprised if there are voters apathy in certain parts of the country and when there is voters apathy, there is a tendency for some unscrupulous political party officials to take advantage of it “ he said
Speaking on solutions to preventing these attacks, Mr Abuh said there should be a collaboration between all security agencies in the country and more personnel deployed to INEC offices.
“Operational deployment of security agencies in INEC offices should be done. It must be a collaboration between all the security agencies including local security outfits, like the Amotekun and Vigilante, and let all of them sit, plan and deploy personnels. The attacker’s mode of operation should be equally studied. The government on its part must continue to encourage security personnels, and also make sure that people caught must be prosecuted.” he said