ABUJA, FEB 12 — Nigeria’s electoral body said on Tuesday some sensitive electoral materials were destroyed by fire which broke out at its head office in the southern state of Anambra, only four days to the presidential polls.
The fire at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Awka, capital of the state, gutted two containers housing smart card readers for the conduct of the general elections starting on Saturday.
INEC’s resident electoral commissioner in the state, Nwachukwu Orji, confirmed the incident to reporters, saying it took the efforts of firefighters and security operatives to put out the fire.
“I don’t have the details of how the fire started; all I know is that there was a fire incident involving the containers that housed some of our sensitive materials,” Orji said.
According to local daily THISDAY, the fire started from one of the containers, which is used as a makeshift office inside the state headquarters of INEC.
Security operatives stopped journalists and other media workers from entering the compound to assess the level of damage.
Orji said the affected containers had been housing electoral materials used in Anambra since 2011. “We don’t have any provision in the container for the plugging of electrical appliances,” he said.
Due to the fire incident, the official doubted that elections would hold in the southeastern state, as the smart card readers are used to confirm the voters’ identities by reading their permanent voter cards (PVC) before they can cast their votes.
The PVCs were first introduced in the 2015 elections, with a view to addressing electoral fraud issues like people using other people’s cards to go and vote, stealing cards or even buying cards.
With a total of 2,447,996 registered voters, the state has the highest number of eligible voters in Nigeria’s south region.
“I can’t tell you here now that elections will take place in the state on Saturday or not,” Orji said.
The official said an investigation would be promptly carried out, to determine the extent of destruction done by the fire before the commission would take its position on the situation.
Nigeria will hold general elections on Feb. 16 to elect the country’s president and national assembly members, and on March 2 to elect state governors and state legislators. – XINHUA