Bankole Taiwo, Abeokuta
The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Mahmood Yakubu, on Tuesday visited the burnt Abeokuta South Local Government office of the Commission at Iyana Mortuary, Abeokuta, Ogun State with a pledge to ensure that nobody whose Permanent Voter Card was destroyed during the attack on the facility is disenfranchised during the 2023 elections.
It would be recalled that some suspected arsonists were said to have set the INEC office ablaze early this month, precisely around 1 am early morning of Thursday, November 10, 2022.
The hoodlums said to be about eight had reportedly scaled the perimeter fence, jumped into the premises and set the INEC building on fire from the rear allegedly with loaves of bread soaked with petroleum.
However, while speaking with journalists during his visit to the burnt office, Prof Mahmood Yakubu disclosed that his visit was to strengthen the electoral staff and let them know that the Commission will never at anytime abandon them.
He said for a total of 65,699 Permanent Voter Cards destroyed during the attack, the Commission will definitely reprint the PVCs very soon as no one would be allowed to be disenfranchised on the account of the incident or that of any other on the INEC offices across the country.
The INEC boss said no amount of unwarranted attack against its offices in the country would hinder the electoral body from conducting free, fair and credible elections in 2023.
Prof Yakubu said “the purpose of our visit to this office is to further access the extent of damage, to meet our own staff, particularly in the place where they have relocated to in Oke-Ilewo, to boost their morale and to assure the people of Abeokuta South that inspite of this unfortunate incident, elections will hold in Abeokuta South in 2023.
“Whatever materials we have lost, the commission is making efforts to replace the materials. We lost 65,699 PVCs, we want to assure all those that have not collected their PVCs who may have been affected that we are making plans to reprint the PVCs quickly and to bring them back to Abeokuta South for people to collect and vote.
“We want to assure the people of Abeokuta South that this incident, terrible as it is will not deter and will not discourage us, it will not discourage our staff from conducting the 2023 general elections and we want to once again assure the people of Abeokuta South, the people of Ogun State and the people of Nigeria that the commission is determined to make the 2023 elections our best ever, we will not be deterred, we are not cowed by acts of arson by undemocratic and retrogressive elements.
“As soon we get the VIN numbers to be harvested by the State office, we will reprint, it doesn’t take longer than two days to print 65,000 PVCs, but we have to get the Voter Identification Numbers for the cards that were lost so that we can quickly reprint. It doesn’t take longer than two days to reprints those number of PVCs.
“It is very disappointing, particularly because in that last four months five of our offices were attacked nationwide, but this will never deter us, we will make sure that we replace burnt and destroyed equipment and also reprint the PVCs and conduct elections.
“My message to stakeholders, political parties, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), security agencies and even people like you in the media is to remain confident that elections will hold inspite of this very temporary setback”.
Receiving the INEC boss in his palace, the Alake of Egba land, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo described him as someone he had known for a very long time saying that he was very sure that Prof Yakubu possessed the integrity and capacity to conduct a credible poll in 2023.