8 March 2019

Nigeria: Fire Engulfs INEC Office in Akwa Ibom

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State has been gutted by fire, a day to a crucial governorship and house of assembly elections in the state.

The cause of the fire remains unknown for now.

A security guard who was on duty at the INEC office told PREMIUM TIMES the fire started around 2 a.m. on Friday.

"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," the guard said.

"We raised alarm for help, and then we started fighting the fire, using water and sand. But it was too much for us."

A section of the building still smouldered and election materials apparently evacuated from the burnt building, were scattered around the premises, when a PREMIUM TIMES reporter visited the scene.

Several card readers meant for use in the Saturday's elections have been destroyed by the fire, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.

It is unclear how the incident would affect the conduct of the elections.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mike Igini, is said to have visited the scene to ascertain the extent of the damage.

A handful of police officers were seen barricading the road leading to the INEC office as at 9 a.m on Friday.

There is rising tension in Akwa Ibom over Saturday's elections.

Even though the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, has assured the people of their safety and security during the elections, there is widespread fear that there may be bloody clashes among supporters of the two main political parties - the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Mr Emmanuel, who is contesting for a second term as governor, has Nsima Ekere of the APC as his main challenger.

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