The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday decried reports of attacks in some polling units across the country as accreditation and voting continues for the presidential and National Assembly elections.
According to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, some Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines were snatched, while reports of attacks by bandits and thugs would be investigated and appropriate responses provided.
Responding to questions during a press briefing in Abuja, Yakubu said some of the delays around the country was due to the late opening of the polling units, owing to the perennial insecurity in the country.
The security threats in the ongoing exercise mirrors incidents of snatching of sensitive and non-sensitive materials in previous general elections.
“We couldn’t deploy early enough to Alawa in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State. Bandits launched an attack, not necessarily on INEC officials, but in the area,” he said.
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“So, on the advice of the security agencies, we tarried a while. But I’m happy to say that we were able to deploy to Alawa and voting in that location is ongoing as we speak.”
The INEC Chairman added that a similar incident was recorded in Oshimili Local Government Area of Delta State, where thugs reportedly attacked a polling unit and in the process, two BVAS machines were lost.
“But again, determined that elections must continue, we were able to replace the stolen BVAS machines, reinforce security, and voting continued in that location.”
Thugs Shift Target
In Safana LGA, Katsina State, thugs attacked one of our voting locations and snatched six BVAS machines, Yakubu told journalists.
The chief electoral officer however noted that the BVAS machines were recovered and “the spare” used for the electoral exercise, while security was reinforced for voting to continue in that location.
“Happily, the security agencies have recovered three of the BVAS machines, but three are still held by the thugs,” he said.
“So, in these locations, the target of attack was actually the BVAS machines – no longer our ballot papers or ballot boxes. But in the two instances, we were able to recover and continue with the process.”
Speaking on the inability of a vice presidential to vote in Maiduguri Metropolitan Council and a similar incident in Jere of Borno State, the INEC Chairman stated that the Commission was following and tracking the challenges.
“Voting hasn’t ended; we’re sure we’ll overcome whatever challenges and every Nigerian will have the opportunity to vote,” he said.
Yakubu added that an incident of insurgency was being tracked in Gwoza.
“There are some, should I say, bandits or insurgents that were firing from the mountain top in Gwoza – just firing at random.
“That was what we were tracking before we had to come to be brief, so we’ll continue to track. At 4:30 [pm] we should be able to give further update on that,” he said.