By Peter Okolie, Owerri/Emmanuel Oloniruha, Abuja, Dec. 12, 2022
Gunmen on Monday attacked the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Owerri and set part of the office complex and some vehicles in the compound ablaze.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that the incident occurred in the early hours of Monday.
It was further learnt that three of the suspected gunmen were gunned down by the police operatives on duty, while two others were arrested.
Gov. Hope Uzodimma, who visited the scene, expressed concern over the attack, saying that it was “politically motivated.”
Uzodimma said: “What is happening in Imo is politically contrived.
“Some people, who think they can win election, yet don’t want election, how will they then win?
“INEC does not need this distraction at this point and stage of our elections.
“INEC should be supported by all and sundry.
“But contrary to that, we see people creating distractions here and there by attacking innocent people.
“Why INEC?” he queried and commended the police for resisting the assailants.
According to him, this is a demonstration of the preparedness by the police for the 2023 General Elections.
The governor also assured residents of a peaceful Christmas celebration, in spite of the distractions.
“I urge the people of the state to turn out to collect their Permanent Voter Cards because the card is key to the elections we are looking forward to.
“If you don’t have your voter card, you will not be able to vote,” he said.
Also, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mohammed Barde, said the gunmen were repelled by a reinforced team, who were on patrol.
“Immediately they got to Control Roundabout, the gunmen threw dynamite into our vehicle and were able to kill two of our men,” Barde said.
He further said that the gunmen also threw petrol bombs and dynamites into the INEC office which razed part of the buildings.
“But because of the firing power from my men, the gunmen were unable to escape with one of their Lexus Jeep.
“We gave them a hot chase and were able to neutralise three of them,” he said.
He said that three AK47 rifles, three pump action guns with some of the Improvised Explosive Devices and four of their vehicles were recovered by his men.
“We were also able to arrest two of them with bullet wounds,” the state police boss said.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mrs. Silvia Uchenna Agu, said parts of the Media Unit, Election and Political Party Monitoring and Liaison Office, Accounts Office, vehicles and window glasses were destroyed.
Agu said that the attack would not deter the commission from conducting credible elections in the state.
Meanwhile, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, has said that no critical election material was destroyed in the attack on its headquarters in Imo.
Okoye, in a statement, Monday in Abuja, said the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Imo State reported that INEC State Headquarters office in Owerri was attacked by unknown gunmen, at about 3 a.m on Monday Dec. 12.
“The attack affected the part of the building occupied by the Election and Party Monitoring (EPM) Department and one official utility vehicle (a Toyota Hilux pickup van) was burnt.
“The response of the security and emergency services (the Fire Service) curtailed further damage to the building and other assets of the Commission.
“No critical election materials were destroyed. There were also no casualties involving staff of the Commission.”
Okoye said the attack was the third on the commission’s facilities in Imo in less than two weeks, following the earlier attacks on its Orlu LGA office on Thursday, Dec. 1 and Oru West LGA office on Sunday Dec. 4.
“Our Imo headquarters is located in the centre of Owerri, the state capital, between a court and the state secretariat.
“This is therefore, yet another systematic attack targetted at the Commission’s assets across the country, more so on the day that the collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) began nationwide ahead of the 2023 general elections,” Okoye said