Geoffrey Anyanwu,  Awka

Fire razed a section of the Anambra State headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in Awka, the state capital, yesterday, destroying 4, 695 card readers in the process.

Chairman of INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, disclosed this in a statement.

INEC expressed concern about fire incidents but vowed that the incidents would not affect the polls.

He also disclosed that INEC would mop up some card readers from neighbouring states for Anambra.

That was the third time in two weeks, when fire would raze INEC election materials. Penultimate week, the INEC office in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State was gutted by fire and some of the items destroyed included 2979 Permanent Voters’ Cards and other materials.

Last Saturday, fire also razed the Qua’an Pan Local Government office of the Commission in Plateau State. At the Qua’an Pan office, items destroyed include 5987 uncollected Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), 380 Voting Cubicles, 755 ballot boxes, 14 generators, election forms and official stamps.

Regardless, in Anambra, the container-laden smartcard readers and some non-sensitive materials meant for the elections, starting on Saturday, went up in flames.

Although the cause of the fire outbreak was not yet known as at press time, sources said it might not be unconnected with an electrical fault.

In a swift reaction, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, dismissed insinuations that the fire outbreak was caused by electrical fault.

He said: “We don’t have any provision in the container for the plugging of electrical appliances.”

INEC’s Director,  Voter Education/ Head of Public Relations in the state,  Mr.  Leo Nkedife, confirmed the fire outbreak and said the cause of the fire was not yet known. 

Said Nkedife: “We were somewhere in a programme when it happened.  It was a container containing smart card readers that was burnt.”

The fire outbreak happened when INEC in the state was holding stakeholder meeting at the Prof. Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre,  Awka; against the backdrop of Saturday’s polls.

Meanwhile,  security operatives have cordoned off the INEC complex.