A faith-based organisation, The Muslim Congress (TMC), has raised concerns over the wave of attacks on the offices and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in parts of the country, calling on the Federal government to urgently put an end to it before the February 2023 polls.
The general elections and the escalating concerns over attacks on INEC facilities was one of the important issues addressed by the group on Saturday at its quarterly State of the Nation address held in Lagos, Southwest, Nigeria.
The Amir of TMC who also doubles as the Chairman, Committee on Social Mobility, Economy and Politics, Alhaji Abdul Wasi’i Taiwo Bangbala, decried the incessant attacks on INEC facilities and its officials, especially in the southeastern region of the country.
Represented by his Secretary General, Alhaji Hassan Taiwo Adesina, TMC said; The serial arson and violence against the personnel and facilities of INEC in the past few months, especially in the southeast, have resulted in the destruction of vital equipments and buildings, while precious lives have also been lost.
“It is worrisome that many of these acts of violence come across as orchestrated attempts by agents of anarchy and disorder to frustrate and derail INEC from conducting free and credible elections; a cause for concern that the Prof. Mahmud Yakubu-led commission’s capacity to organise large scale elections is being undermined in such a systematic and coordinated fashion even as the election is a few weeks away.”
The Muslim Congress therefore urged the federal government to ensure that measures are put in place to prevent disruptions of the forthcoming electoral activities.
“The authorities must know that only when the security agencies fish out and prosecute the masterminds of the numerous attacks on the facilities of the electoral commission can there be a semblance of peaceful and credible elections. We, therefore, call on the relevant authorities to consider deploying a combination of intelligence, special operations and law enforcement techniques to nip the growing menace in the bud”, he said.
… Condemns Edo train station attack
The faith-based organisation also condemned the attack on Chief Tom Ikimi Train Station, Igueben in Edo State which led to the abduction of 20 passengers (according to the account of the state government).
Muslim News findings, however, revealed that some of the abducted passengers were rescued on Sunday by joint security forces.
While urging the relevant security agents to rescue the remaining passengers, TMC called on concerned authorities to deploy an all-inclusive and sustainable security system at all train stations and other sensitive public infrastructures across the country.
The Committee described the Igueben train station attack as a tragic reminder of the Kaduna train attack during which 8 passengers lost their lives while 62 others were held captive back in March 2022.
“It is disturbing that barely a month after operations resumed on the Abuja-Kaduna corridor, we have witnessed another dastardly attack, this time in the Edo axis. That such a facility was bare of adequate security suggests that the authorities and the stakeholders did not learn any lesson from the Kaduna incident of few months ago.”
The committee also expressed delight at the plan for a census in Nigeria after the country last held such headcount 16 years ago.
They said apart from the general elections, the census is another epochal event to happen in 2023, urging the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to deliver an acceptable national population and housing census.
…Urges NPC to work with religious bodies
TMC also advised the National Population Commission (NPC) to work with religious and traditional institutions to ramp up public enlightenment on the exercise.
Other issues discussed at the State of the Nation Address in addition to the escalating concerns over attack on election facilities include, Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and other legacies of President Buhari, resurgence of COVID-19, among others.
Read full text of the address:
IGUEBEN TRAIN STATION ATTACK: ONE TRAGEDY TOO MANY
The recent Igueben train station attack in Edo State is a tragic reminder of the Kaduna train attack during which 8 passengers lost their lives while 62 others were held captive back in March 2022. It is disturbing that barely a month after operations resumed on the Abuja-Kaduna corridor, we have witnessed another dastardly attack, this time in the Edo axis. That such a facility was bare of adequate security suggests that the authorities and the stakeholders did not learn any lesson from the Kaduna incident of few months ago. Now, more than ever, is the time for the authorities to deploy an all-inclusive and sustainable security systems at all train stations and other sensitive public infrastructures across the country. The avalanche of security challenges, the wave of wanton and extra-judicial killings that ravaged the country in 2022 may have continued, seemingly unabated, in the new year with this latest terror attack. The spiralling security breaches across the country is a cause for worry. The buck stops at the table of the President as the chief security officer, and while it is reassuring that President Muhammadu Buhari has called for the strongest possible action against the perpetrators of terrorism in the country, the redemptive drive must include the demand for results from the security chiefs and sanctioning of those found ineffectual in their responsibilities. We urge the federal government to ensure that its arsenal is deployed with the aid of appropriate technology in taking out the criminals in their various hideouts and to forestall the recurrence of this vicious cycle. We acknowledge the recent military onslaught against insurgency and banditry in the north. Without doubt, the activities of Boko Haram and bandits have been greatly subdued lately and we believe that final victory against acts of terror in the country is within sight.
NATIONAL POPULATION CENSUS 2023: REFOCUSING THE TRAJECTORY OF THE NATION
Nigerians ushered in the new year with high expectations and general excitement for a new dawn. 2023 is loaded with two significant national events, general election and national headcount- the National Population and Housing Census. These two national events are sacrosanct and their outcomes will go a long way to re-shape and refocus the trajectory of our nation for a very long time. Although, attention may be so fixated on the election given the anxiety over the impending political transition, population census is no less critical and it is, perhaps, the nation’s best shot at unravelling its exhausting arrays of challenges given its relevance to economic formulations and political calculations. Sadly, the conduct of census in Nigeria has always been mired in controversy. It is unimaginable that Nigeria keeps making its decision using a database as dated as 2006; undoubtedly, data from census conducted 16 years ago is beyond the times. And now that the next headcount is scheduled for April 2023, it behoves the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to, apart from midwifing a credible election, deliver an acceptable National Population and Housing Census that will produce the new set of demographic and socio-economic data to provide the basis for national planning and sustainable development. The National Population Commission must ensure that the 2023 census does not repeat the mistakes of the past and leave no stone unturned in delivering a hitch-free census. Being the first digital census in Nigeria, the commission needs to effectively collaborate with religious and traditional institutions to drive public awareness and enlightenment for Nigerians to embrace and place premium importance on the exercise.
THE GENERAL ELECTIONS & THE ESCALATING CONCERNS OVER ATTACKS ON ELECTION FACILITIES
The wave of attacks on the offices and facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in parts of the country has heightened concerns ahead of the February polls. The serial arson and violence against the personnel and facilities of INEC in the past few months, especially in the South-east, have resulted in the destruction of vital equipments and buildings, while precious lives have also been lost. It is worrisome that many of these acts of violence comes across as an orchestrated attempt by agents of anarchy and disorder to frustrate and derail INEC from conducting free and credible elections; a cause for concern that the Prof. Mahmud Yakubu led commission’s capacity to organise large scale elections is being undermined in such a systematic and coordinated fashion even as the election is few weeks away. We urge the government to ensure that measures are put in place to prevent disruptions of the forthcoming electoral activities. The authorities must know that only when the security agencies fish out and prosecute the masterminds of the numerous attacks on the facilities of the electoral commission can there be a semblance of peaceful and credible elections. We, therefore, call on the relevant authorities to consider deploying a combination of intelligence, special operations and law enforcement techniques to nip the growing menace in the bud.
RESURGENCE OF COVID-19 AND THE NEED FOR PROACTIVE MEASURES
The global community is again on the edge with the recent discovery of subvariants of the deadly COVID-19 in China where the first outbreak was recorded. Although, the W.H.O is yet to officially declare the variants to be of grave concern, just as the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has also said the variants have not been discovered in the country, many countries, however, have reportedly resorted to taking strict epidemiological control measures such as increased vaccination, enforcement of health protocols at points of entry, including restriction of travellers who have been to China. Nigeria must not be caught napping. The Government must again put in place the kind of expeditious measures that earned her worldwide acclaim for the swift response of the local authorities at the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic which disrupted national and global economies, killing nearly 7 million people worldwide since 2019. Preventative measures must be emplaced to keep the contagion at bay. The Federal Government may have to consider reintroducing appropriate safety measures to forestall another outbreak of the deadly virus in the country. Security and health officials at airports, seaports and also land borders must be placed on high alert.
SECOND NIGER BRIDGE, LAGOS-IBADAN EXPRESSWAY & THE LEGACIES OF THE BUHARI-LED GOVERNMENT
As Nigeria braces up for a change of leadership after almost 8 years of the President Buhari led administration, Nigerians will continue to reflect on the performance of the out going government with mixed feelings. While the jury may still be out on whether the Buhari administration has done enough to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the citizens, however, what is hardly disputable is the sustained commitment to infrastructure development by the administration. We commend the Federal Government for completing some of the pre-existing rail projects and starting new ones. Two of the marquee road projects which are important highlights of achievements of the administration are the near-completion of the Second Niger Bridge and the continuous reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. For decades, the Second Niger Bridge has been a point of contention especially for the people of the Southeast but despite some setbacks the administration has delivered on its promise with the construction of the 1.6km bridge. Apart from easing of traffic flow on the overused First Niger Bridge, the new bridge will foster economic activities between the Southeast and the rest of the country by the time it is fully completed. Another of the high-impact projects undertaken by the administration is the ongoing rehabilitation, construction and expansion of the Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan dual carriageway among other laudable efforts of the outgoing government and thus deserves some plaudits despite its many struggles.
LINGERING FUEL CRISIS: GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO RISE TO THE OCASSION
The prolonged fuel crisis has indeed placed a strain on the citizens and businesses as the many months of scarcity and shortage in the supply of Premium Motor Spirits (Petrol) reflects the dysfunction in the country’s downstream sector. The government’s failure to end the lingering crisis may have further deepened the issues with marketers now selling the product at prices ranging from N175 to N300 per litre in defiance of the regulated pricing regime, suggesting an out-of-control situation. The government needs to cobble together an inter-agency efforts for efficient and coordinated approach to ending the protracted scarcity. The NNPC must seek to work with marketers and other relevant stakeholders to continuously improve operational efficiency to remove the recurrent bottleneck, including the perennial distribution challenges. The government needs to stop treating the crisis with levity. The situation must not be allowed to persist in the interest of the citizens already flustered by economic hardship.
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