…as PDP cries sabotage
•Inferno shocking, unfortunate, says Akeredolu
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday insisted that the October 10, Ondo State governorship election would go ahead as scheduled, following the fire incident, which engulfed the ICT unit of the state’s headquarters of the electoral body.
About 5,141 card reader machines, among other sensitive materials, meant for the forthcoming governorship election in the state were destroyed in the fire outbreak. The assurance by INEC came on a day the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, his deputy Mr. Agboola Ajayi, who is the candidate of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), all rose with one voice to condemn the dastardly act. Speaking against the backdrop of fears expressed by residents over a possible postponement of the election, barely 30 days from yesterday, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Ambassador Rufus Akeju, insisted that the incident would not lead to the postponement of the election.
Briefing journalists on the development in Akure, Akeju said there was nothing to panic concerning the forthcoming governorship election. He said: “Up till now, the actual cause of the fire is unknown but relevant security agencies have commenced investigation. “Let me use this medium to allay the fears of the electorate, political parties and our stakeholders and the good people of Ondo State that the fire incident will not affect the conduct of the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Ondo State in any form neither will it lead to the postponement of the Election.
“Meanwhile, necessary arrangements have been put in place for the replacement of the damaged materials. “Let me reiterate that our determination to conduct a free, fair, credible and successful election remains undaunted.” Reacting to the inferno, Akeredolu, who visited the scene of the incident yesterday, expressed shock at the level of the damage caused by the inferno particularly that the October 10 governorship election is less than 30 days. While commending the determination of INEC to conduct the election despite the incident, the governor lamented the effect of the extra cost it will have on the commission as he assured INEC of the state government support where necessary. Akeredolu, who is seeking re-election at the polls, said: “We sympathise with you and we want INEC to know that the people of this state are really concerned and are with you at this point in time in this calamitous situation.
“Like you promised us that by the grace of God the election will still be held on that day, that is soothingly, but it will be a great cost to INEC because for you to replace all those card readers it would be at great cost. “Whatever you think we can do that will not be termed as being partisan becaus whatever we do now could be misinterpreted since we are in an election period, but no doubt we have to come as government and not as contestants. “I can see the determination from how you spoke that the election will still be held on October 10, we are so sorry about this.”
On its part, the Ondo State chapter of the PDP also expressed concern over the incident. PDP in a statement by the state’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kennedy Peretei, said: “Is INEC saying it does not have an internal mechanism to curtail fire outbreak in her office? “Is the metal container containing the over 5000 card reader machines connected to electricity? “If so, was the electricity supply not put off after the official close of work at 5pm? Where were the security officers on duty at the time the fire started?”