OSOBA, SAGAY OTHERS ALLEGE: Theft Of INEC Machines, Begining Of Rigging


Prof. Itse Sagay

Though the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, says it has recovered 16  of the stolen Direct Data Capture, DCC, machines stolen from the Murtala Mohammed  International Airport, politicians, activists and lawyers have lamented the theft,  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 next  year, were stolen at the airport where they were kept by yet to be identified armed  men.

Reacting to the theft, several activists and politicians expressed disappointment at  the development, saying it marks the beginning of the rigging of the elections.

According to Prof. Itse Sagay, constitutional lawyer, “rigging has started already.  The airport officials and the Minister of Aviation are deficient. She (Fidelia  Njeze, Minister of Aviation) is a complete disaster and useless. Can you imagine  that the conveyor belt at the airport is not even working.

Prof. Itse-Sagay

“There is no security at the airport. She must be sacked; the theft of these  machines will create serious crisis. Until we trace those machines, people will be  registered secretly.”

Chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie,  described the theft of the machines as “dangerous and scaring,” adding that it  showed the inefficiency of the security personnel at the airport.

“What this indicate is that those behind the theft might use the machines to rig  the coming elections.

“Nigerians must be vigilant and the security agents must not be trusted. Heads  should roll. Rigging is possible with the theft of these machines,” he stated.

Afenifere chieftain, Chief Reuben Fasoranti described the theft of the machines as a  bad signal and showed the porous security at the nation’s airport.

“It is a bad omen. What do they want to do with the machines? It is a sign of  rigging. Government should swing into action. Security officers should look for the  machines or be prosecuted,” he stated.

Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, lamented the  incident, adding that those who stole the machines would be put to shame as the  country would experience free and fair elections next year, regardless of any  attempt to frustrate INEC.

“Honestly, it is very sad that what the future of the country depends on, to some  extent, has been stolen by the same people whose future we are trying to protect.

“But whether the miscreants among us like it or not, the election will take place  and I am very optimistic that we are going to hold a very successful election in  2011 and Nigeria will be better for it and we will move up from there,” he said.

Leader, Save Nigeria Group, SNG, Pastor Tunde Bakare, expressed hope that those who  stole the machines would have a rethink and bring them back. “Those who stole from  the treasury would never go scot-free, as the masses would have their revenge,” he  said.

Former President, Nigeria Bar Association, Rotimi Akeredolu, explained that the  stolen machines could be rendered ineffective since they have not been configured.

Publicity Secretary, Action Congress of Nigeria , Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe said:  “If we have plans at all to make the coming elections to be different from the  shameful previous ones, we should have been putting structures in place to avert  this kind of ugly incident.  “It should not have happened at all at this critical  time in the nation’s history. It sends a serious signal that things can go wrong if  we are not very careful. But the State Security Services can prove the criminals  wrong. They must be caught.”

According to Mr. Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary, Afenifere Renewal  Group, “Nigerians should shine their eyes to ensure that those machines are not used  to rig the elections. The people should be alert and avert rigging.”

Mr. Bamidele Aturu, activist said the theft of the machines portends a dangerous  scenario for the forthcoming elections.

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“It shows that politicians have made up their mind to mess up INEC and the coming  elections but we should not allow them. The direct data capture machines have been  captured and we must not allow the votes of the people to be captured. We should  vote and remain there until our votes are counted,” he said.

National President, Campaign for Democracy, CD, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, described the  theft of the machines as “very ridiculous and unbelievable.”

“This is a sign that there are designs to rig the forthcoming elections. The Federal  Government must bring those in charge of securing the machines but allowed them to  be stolen, to book,” she added.

Debo Adeniran, leader, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, also lamented the  theft, saying that it exposed the insecurity at the nation’s airports.

“The stolen machines could be used to rig the coming elections. It is a shame on  this nation. This could not have happened without the active collaboration of  security officers. The security officers should be brought for questioning and  sacked,” he stated. In his own reaction, former governor of Ogun State, Aremo  Olusegun Osoba said the theft of the DDC machines at the Lagos Airiport “is a clear  indication that some people are very desperate to rig the forthcoming general  elections.

“They want to commence the rigging through the voter registration exercise. It is  clear that some people are desperate to rig the next elections and the way to start  rigging is by starting with the registraton of voters. Having stolen the equipment,  they want to tamper with the registration so that they can manipulate it to suit  their own purpose.

“If the federal government is serious about free and fair elections, they must  ensure that they get at the root of this brazen robbery, otherwise the bulk stops at  the table of the president.  “The implication is that the do or die politics is  still very much alive,” said the Akinrogun of Egbaland.

Ogun State East senatorial aspirant, Bisi Adegbuyi, said the theft of the machines  tells a lot about the kind of people we are and the nature of security at our  various airports.

According to him, “if materials as sensitive as the DDC machines could be stolen at  the airport; machines that are supposed to be used for the registration of voters,  it simply means that all may not be well with the forthcoming voter registration  exercise.

“But, clearly, the people that perpetrated this dastard act know that we don’t  punish offenders in Nigeria. The culture of impunity that is reigning supreme in  Nigeria is that when people wilfully break the law, they are never punished.

“When people manipulated the electoral process and were compensated with  governorship office. They stay in the office for about three and half years, only  for them to be kicked out without any corresponding punishment for having violated  the electoral integrity. “The law must begin to punish people who break the law. The  curse of impunity that is reigning supreme in the country must be stopped  completely, otherwise criminals will continue to have a field day,” said Adegbuyi.

Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party’s governorship aspirant in the last election,  Femi Carena, who came in from an overseas trip said the stolen machines will not be  useful to those who stole them.

According to Olorunfunmi Bashorun, a chieftain of the ACN in Lagos State, “it is  like somebody stealing fere Oba, Ibo lo ti fe fun(It’s like somebody stealing the  king’s trumpet, where will such a person blow it). Those people that stole the  machines have stolen nothing. The machines they stole have been customised for a  purpose.

“What are they going to use it for? Maybe they want to sabotage the exercise. Apart  from that,  I don’t see anything big in it. They have stolen nothing. They have just  wasted their time because the machines have been customised for registration of  voters in Nigeria.

“It already has the logo of Nigeria and everything, so 6,000 out of so many  thousands should not have any effect. But somebody must be careless and they should  find out who is responsible and ensure that such people are brought to book under  our laws,” he said.

Ayo Opadokun said the theft of the machines “is not a good omen. It is not a good  sign. The electoral management committee and the suppliers should convince Nigeria  that the theft of some of the DDC machines was not to sabotage the registration  exercise.

“If those machines were stolen and such people conspired to falsify the voters’  register, that means that the much-awated 2011 elections will run into difficulty.  So, every effort must be made to prevent further occurrence of such,” he advised.

—Kazeem Ugbodaga, Eromosele Ebhomele, Yisa Jamiu

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