10th December, 2010
Though the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, says it has recovered 16Â of the stolen Direct Data Capture, DCC, machines stolen from the Murtala MohammedÂ International Airport, politicians, activists and lawyers have lamented the theft,Â saying it marks the beginning of the rigging of the 2011 general elections.
Some of the machines, imported by INEC for the registration of voters early nextÂ year, were stolen at the airport where they were kept by yet to be identified armedÂ men.
Reacting to the theft, several activists and politicians expressed disappointment atÂ the development, saying it marks the beginning of the rigging of the elections.
According to Prof. Itse Sagay, constitutional lawyer, â€œrigging has started already.Â The airport officials and the Minister of Aviation are deficient. She (FideliaÂ Njeze, Minister of Aviation) is a complete disaster and useless. Can you imagineÂ that the conveyor belt at the airport is not even working.
â€œThere is no security at the airport. She must be sacked; the theft of theseÂ machines will create serious crisis. Until we trace those machines, people will beÂ registered secretly.â€
Chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie,Â described the theft of the machines as â€œdangerous and scaring,â€ adding that itÂ showed the inefficiency of the security personnel at the airport.
â€œWhat this indicate is that those behind the theft might use the machines to rigÂ the coming elections.
â€œNigerians must be vigilant and the security agents must not be trusted. HeadsÂ should roll. Rigging is possible with the theft of these machines,â€ he stated.
Afenifere chieftain, Chief Reuben Fasoranti described the theft of the machines as aÂ bad signal and showed the porous security at the nationâ€™s airport.
â€œIt is a bad omen. What do they want to do with the machines? It is a sign ofÂ rigging. Government should swing into action. Security officers should look for theÂ machines or be prosecuted,â€ he stated.
Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, lamented theÂ incident, adding that those who stole the machines would be put to shame as theÂ country would experience free and fair elections next year, regardless of anyÂ attempt to frustrate INEC.
â€œHonestly, it is very sad that what the future of the country depends on, to someÂ extent, has been stolen by the same people whose future we are trying to protect.
â€œBut whether the miscreants among us like it or not, the election will take placeÂ and I am very optimistic that we are going to hold a very successful election inÂ 2011 and Nigeria will be better for it and we will move up from there,â€ he said.
Leader, Save Nigeria Group, SNG, Pastor Tunde Bakare, expressed hope that those whoÂ stole the machines would have a rethink and bring them back. â€œThose who stole fromÂ the treasury would never go scot-free, as the masses would have their revenge,â€ heÂ said.
Former President, Nigeria Bar Association, Rotimi Akeredolu, explained that theÂ stolen machines could be rendered ineffective since they have not been configured.
Publicity Secretary, Action Congress of Nigeria , Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe said:Â â€œIf we have plans at all to make the coming elections to be different from theÂ shameful previous ones, we should have been putting structures in place to avertÂ this kind of ugly incident.Â â€œIt should not have happened at all at this criticalÂ time in the nationâ€™s history. It sends a serious signal that things can go wrong ifÂ we are not very careful. But the State Security Services can prove the criminalsÂ wrong. They must be caught.â€
According to Mr. Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary, Afenifere RenewalÂ Group, â€œNigerians should shine their eyes to ensure that those machines are not usedÂ to rig the elections. The people should be alert and avert rigging.â€
Mr. Bamidele Aturu, activist said the theft of the machines portends a dangerousÂ scenario for the forthcoming elections.
â€œIt shows that politicians have made up their mind to mess up INEC and the comingÂ elections but we should not allow them. The direct data capture machines have beenÂ captured and we must not allow the votes of the people to be captured. We shouldÂ vote and remain there until our votes are counted,â€ he said.
National President, Campaign for Democracy, CD, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, described theÂ theft of the machines as â€œvery ridiculous and unbelievable.â€
â€œThis is a sign that there are designs to rig the forthcoming elections. The FederalÂ Government must bring those in charge of securing the machines but allowed them toÂ be stolen, to book,â€ she added.
Debo Adeniran, leader, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, also lamented theÂ theft, saying that it exposed the insecurity at the nationâ€™s airports.
â€œThe stolen machines could be used to rig the coming elections. It is a shame onÂ this nation. This could not have happened without the active collaboration ofÂ security officers. The security officers should be brought for questioning andÂ sacked,â€ he stated. In his own reaction, former governor of Ogun State, AremoÂ Olusegun Osoba said the theft of the DDC machines at the Lagos Airiport â€œis a clearÂ indication that some people are very desperate to rig the forthcoming generalÂ elections.
â€œThey want to commence the rigging through the voter registration exercise. It isÂ clear that some people are desperate to rig the next elections and the way to startÂ rigging is by starting with the registraton of voters. Having stolen the equipment,Â they want to tamper with the registration so that they can manipulate it to suitÂ their own purpose.
â€œIf the federal government is serious about free and fair elections, they mustÂ ensure that they get at the root of this brazen robbery, otherwise the bulk stops atÂ the table of the president.Â â€œThe implication is that the do or die politics isÂ still very much alive,â€ said the Akinrogun of Egbaland.
Ogun State East senatorial aspirant, Bisi Adegbuyi, said the theft of the machinesÂ tells a lot about the kind of people we are and the nature of security at ourÂ various airports.
According to him, â€œif materials as sensitive as the DDC machines could be stolen atÂ the airport; machines that are supposed to be used for the registration of voters,Â it simply means that all may not be well with the forthcoming voter registrationÂ exercise.
â€œBut, clearly, the people that perpetrated this dastard act know that we donâ€™tÂ punish offenders in Nigeria. The culture of impunity that is reigning supreme inÂ Nigeria is that when people wilfully break the law, they are never punished.
â€œWhen people manipulated the electoral process and were compensated withÂ governorship office. They stay in the office for about three and half years, onlyÂ for them to be kicked out without any corresponding punishment for having violatedÂ the electoral integrity. â€œThe law must begin to punish people who break the law. TheÂ curse of impunity that is reigning supreme in the country must be stoppedÂ completely, otherwise criminals will continue to have a field day,â€ said Adegbuyi.
Lagos State Peoples Democratic Partyâ€™s governorship aspirant in the last election,Â Femi Carena, who came in from an overseas trip said the stolen machines will not beÂ useful to those who stole them.
According to Olorunfunmi Bashorun, a chieftain of the ACN in Lagos State, â€œit isÂ like somebody stealing fere Oba, Ibo lo ti fe fun(Itâ€™s like somebody stealing theÂ kingâ€™s trumpet, where will such a person blow it). Those people that stole theÂ machines have stolen nothing. The machines they stole have been customised for aÂ purpose.
â€œWhat are they going to use it for? Maybe they want to sabotage the exercise. ApartÂ from that,Â I donâ€™t see anything big in it. They have stolen nothing. They have justÂ wasted their time because the machines have been customised for registration ofÂ voters in Nigeria.
â€œIt already has the logo of Nigeria and everything, so 6,000 out of so manyÂ thousands should not have any effect. But somebody must be careless and they shouldÂ find out who is responsible and ensure that such people are brought to book underÂ our laws,â€ he said.
Ayo Opadokun said the theft of the machines â€œis not a good omen. It is not a goodÂ sign. The electoral management committee and the suppliers should convince NigeriaÂ that the theft of some of the DDC machines was not to sabotage the registrationÂ exercise.
â€œIf those machines were stolen and such people conspired to falsify the votersâ€™Â register, that means that the much-awated 2011 elections will run into difficulty.Â So, every effort must be made to prevent further occurrence of such,â€ he advised.
â€”Kazeem Ugbodaga, Eromosele Ebhomele, Yisa Jamiu