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Suspected hoodlums have burnt down an office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ibesikpo Asuntan local government area of Akwa Ibom state, barely 24 hours to the governorship and state assembly elections scheduled for Saturday, March 9.

The cause of the fire is not yet ascertained but the guards watching over the building said an explosion was heard at about 2 am as one of the rooms caught fire.

“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,” Premium Times quoted the guards as saying.

There are insinuations, however, that the fire as set by thugs loyal to one of the two major political parties taking part in Saturday’s election.

Some materials that would be used for Saturday’s elections were reported to have been destroyed in the fire, though some were successfully salvaged.

INEC is yet to react to the development but the Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini, has visited the area to ascertain the level of damage caused.

Policemen and other security operatives have barricaded the road leading to the INEC building.

Akwa Ibom State is one of the states where violence was recorded in the just-concluded presidential and national assembly elections.

Tension in Akwa Ibom State has been high as the two major political parties in Nigeria − the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) − have intensified the struggle for the control of the oil-rich state.

The sitting Governor, Emmanuel Udom of the PDP, has fallen out of favour with his predecessor, Godswill Akpabio, who defected to the APC in late 2018, and who is trying to prove his popularity by winning the state for his new party.

That quest, however, has been unsuccessful so far as the PDP won resoundingly in the last elections, defeating the APC in the presidential election, and Akpabio and the other APC Senator in the state losing their seats to PDP opponents.

Udom is running for a second term in office and his major challenger is Nsima Ekere of the APC who is enjoying the support of not only Akpabio but also the APC-led federal government.


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