The Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Mike Igini has assured that the governorship and legislative elections would go on as scheduled despite the fire which gutted the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ibesikpo Asutan local government area in the wee hours of Friday.
Speaking at the scene of the fire in Nung Udoe, Igini assured the people of Ibesikpo Asutan that elections would still hold in the area as planned despite the damage of some electoral material.
He said many card readers and other electoral materials were destroyed by the fire that destroyed the inner part of the office.
However, he said ballot papers were not affected adding that INEC mop up materials from other offices to offset the damage so that elections would still go ahead as planned.
“There is no going back on the March 9 election. Election will hold as scheduled, no matter the plot,” said Igini.
Reacting to the incident, the Akwa Ibom State police command said although they had earlier provided what appeared as adequate security to all INEC offices in the state, the development would make it do some reinforcement to guard against any eventuality.
Police spokesman, Mr. Odiko MacDon said the command the cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained.
“However, the commissioner of police has directed the assistant commissioner of police in charge of the state CID to carry out a thorough investigation to determine whether the fire was natural or if it was arson.
“Where it is established that it was arson, the commissioner of police has directed that the perpetrators be identified, arrested, prosecuted in accordance with extant laws,” he said.
He added: “However, the commissioner of police has directed the assistant commissioner of police in charge of the state CID to carry out a thorough investigation to determine whether the fire was natural or if it was arson.
“Where it is established that it was arson, the CP has directed that the perpetrators be identified, arrested, prosecuted in accordance with extant laws.
“The CP has also directed further that all INEC offices, which before now have been seriously fortified, that a reinforcement of security to ensure that materials both sensitive and non-sensitive and personnel around the INEC offices are well protected in order to ensure that tomorrow’s governorship /state House of Assembly elections come and go in a very peaceful atmosphere.”
It was gathered that the fire started around 2 a.m. on Friday.
“We heard an explosion inside the building, when we rushed to check what it was; we saw flames of fire coming from one of the rooms.
“We raised alarm for help, and then we started fighting the fire, using water and sand. But it was too much for us,” a security guard told Premium Times in an interview.