Theft Of INEC’s DDC Machines: Heads Must Roll


The news of the theft of some direct data capture (DDC) machines imported into the  country for the forthcoming voters’ registration exercise by the Independent  National Electoral Commission (INEC) by some unscrupulous persons at the Murtala  Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos, came as a surprise to many.

Though about 16 of the stolen machines were said to have been recovered by security  agents, we are not amused about the implications of the remaining stolen machines  yet to be recovered on the conduct and credibility of the 2011 elections.

The theft also came as a shock to many keen watchers of the polity who have been won  over by the assurances of the new Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to give the  country a credible election that will be a reference point for a long time to come.

That some unidentified gunmen would storm the airport in broad daylight and cart  away some of the DDC machines is not only unsettling but a bad omen. Like some  critics have expressed, it is an inkling of what to expect during the 2011 general  elections.

It is scary that after what we have gone through on account of the flawed 2007  elections and the meticulous manner Prof. Jega had gone about laying the foundation  for a credible free and fair elections in 2011, some of us could be so desperate as  to steal newly arrived DDC machines from the airport.

Pray, what do those behind the theft intend to do with the configured machines  solely imported for the registration of voters for the elections other than to use  them to confer undue advantage on their patrons.

We are at a loss to understand the desperation of some politicians to thwart all  efforts to  make the peoples’ vote count in next year’s elections and drag the  country back to the era of ballot box stuffing and snatching, manipulation of  voters’ register and allocation of bogus votes to party’s candidates.

Like some Nigerians have already stated, the theft of the DDC machines is the  beginning of the rigging of the 2011 elections. The argument that the stolen  machines are useless to the thieves and cannot be used to undermine the 2011  elections, to us is a puerile argument.

Indeed, the unrecovered stolen machines can be used to perpetrate electoral  illegalities during the elections and discredit the outcome. This will again result  in a re-enactment of the long and tortuous litigation process by aggrieved  politicians as witnessed after the 2007 polls. For instance, Governor Rauf  Aregbesola of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) recently had his mandate restored  by the Appeal Court after three and half years legal battle against the usurper,  Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State.

To prevent this, we are calling on the government to rise to the occasion by  instituting an inquiry into how the DDC machines were stolen at the airport. This is  one opportunity the government must not miss to reassure Nigerians that it was  serious about conducting a free and fair election in 2011. No stone should be left  unturned to get to the root of this brazen attempt to undermine our collective will  to make the people’s votes count next year.

It is also our stand that the government should make the identities of those  arrested in connection with the theft public for Nigerians to know them. Their  principals should also be identified and appropriate punitive measures taken against  them.

As a starting point, those in charge of security at the airport when the machines  were stolen should be held accountable and punished for inefficiency. By punishing  them, the government will be sending a message that it will not tolerate  inefficiency at the nation’s airports.

Secondly, the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, should be upbraided for the  lapses that led to the theft of the INEC machines at the Lagos airport. The control  and management of the airport falls within her purview. She should be made to  explain why the security at the airport was so poor that the gunmen who carted away  the DDC machines had an easy operation without any challenge from the airport  security officials. This is the only sane way to ensure that such an incident does  not repeat itself.

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