The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Sunday suffered another attack on its facilities as hoodlums invaded its Enugu headquarters at Independence layout and set its properties on fire.
The attack which occurred around 9:00 pm was reportedly done by persons numbering about 20 and happened four days after the office of the commission in Udenu local government council was set ablaze. Like in the case of Udenu, those who carried out the Enugu attack were neither arrested nor known. They escaped before help could come the way of the commission.
Our correspondent counted 14 vehicles parked inside the premises of the commission that were either completely burnt beyond recognition or vandalized. It was gathered that the timely arrival of men of the Federal and State Fire Services, saved the headquarters buildings.
The police while confirming the incident, however, claimed that only “four vehicles and two cushions within the office premises”, were set on fire, adding that the Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Aliyu, who rushed to the scene alongside heads of other security agencies in the state.
The commissioner has “ordered the emplacement of adequate security within the precincts of the office and launch of full scale investigation to unravel the mystery behind the act as well as fish out the assailants.”
Our correspondent gathered that the attackers who operated in minibusses shot sporadically in the air to scare away security men guarding the premises before putting fire on the place.
They forced open the two entrance gates to the commission’s premises where several cars are parked including those belonging to the staff.
A source stated that while some of the hoodlums ignited fire on the vehicles, the rest forced themselves into the offices, adding that attempts to set fire on the REC’s office upstairs failed.
As of Monday morning, a combined security team made up of soldiers, police and Civil Defence officials had cordoned off the location of the commission’s office, restricting vehicular movements and business activities.
INEC spokesman Festus Okoye in a statement stated that the attackers set the foyer ablaze, vandalized some offices in the main building, and caused extensive damage to some of the Commission’s moveable assets within the premises.
“As we categorically mentioned in our earlier statements, the spate of attacks on the Commission’s facilities portends danger to national electoral activities,” Okoye said, adding that the swift response of security agencies, State and Federal Fire Services saved the headquarters buildings.
Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Emeka Ononamadu, who briefed journalists at the premises of the Commission, stated that security was beefed up around INEC’s facilities after the first attack that happened in Akwa Ibom state.
“But the report we got is that they came in large numbers, estimating about over 20. Based on the number that came, security provision was not sufficient. We started taking proactive measures when we heard what happened in Akwa Ibom and Abia states and that proactive measure is not just in Enugu, but majorly in state offices in Southeast and South-south because the trend moved from attack on the police to now our offices,” Ononamadu said.
He said no injuries or death was recorded during the attack but that there were firings that apparently prevented the hoodlums from burning down the entire place.
“The building was actually set on fire but the fire did not get the building down. Fire was set in some offices. Fire officers came on time and were able to contain the foyer where the cushions got burnt and could not spread to other offices. I commend them personally because even in Udenu, they responded quickly as soon as they were notified. The state fire service did well and we are very grateful,” Ononamadu said
He said the Civil Defense officials and internal security of the commission were the ones on duty when the incident occurred, stressing that the Commission had been able to mobilize two to three armed security men per local government to guard its offices.
Meanwhile, the Enugu State Citizens Support for Equity and Good Governance (ESCSEG) on Monday condemned the attack in totality, stressing that incessant attack on government establishment was worrisome.
A statement by its coordinator, Onyendozi Onwe, said the group raised fears that the 2023 elections were threatened and called on security agencies to up their games and curtail the rising ugly incident.
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