By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini has confirmed fire incident at the Ibesikpo/Asutan Local Government Area office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but said no sensitive material meant for tomorrow’s election is destroyed.
The fire outbreak which occurred in the early morning of Friday razed down a portion of the Commission’s Office in the area and destroyed some other valuable property.
Mr. Igini said the incident notwithstanding, elections would still hold in all the 329 electoral wards that constitute Akwa Ibom State.
He also urged electorate in the area not to be alarmed over the sad incident, saying the Commission has taken necessary steps to replace items such as Card Readers destroyed in the inferno to ensure that they are not disenfranchised.
When contacted, the police public relations officer (PPRO) in the state, DSP Odiko MacDon said the command has ordered for an immediate investigation to unravel the root cause of the incident.
On whether any arrest has been made in connection with it, MacDon said it was too early (as at when contacted) to make an arrest of anybody who may be involved, but promised that during the cause of investigation, any body found culpable would be arrested and prosecuted accordingly.
Reacting to the incident, Mr. Joe Okon, chapter chairman, Ibesikpo/Asutan local government chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC described it as mysterious fire.
Okon in a release made said, “We gathered from interactions with the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the Local Government that once the fire incident was noticed, the state Fire Service Department was immediately contacted but their response was terribly slow.
“We understand that some sensitive election materials were gutted by the fire while other were saved and evacuated in a process that may have compromised their handling integrity,” Okon stated.
He called for immediately audit of election materials dispatched to the local government to establish the extent of compromise, adding that APC will not accept materials that have been compromised or handled in any way that is not consistent with electoral process.
Okon also called on security agencies in the state to step in and investigate the fire incident. “We are also calling on INEC to make full disclosure of all election materials destroyed and compromised by the fire incident. We expect INEC to take all steps necessary to assure all the parties that in spite of the fire, Saturday’s election will be free and fair and the sanctity of election process and materials guaranteed”, he added.