Strange fire has gutted about 6,372 card readers and other sensitive materials meant for the conduct of the 2019 general elections in Anambra State.The incident, which took place at about 2:14pm on Monday happened while INEC officials were still at work.
It was learnt that a meeting between the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and political parties was going on at the Dora Akunyili Women Development Center when the inferno started without the knowledge of both the security and INEC officials.
According to an eye witness account, the card readers were kept in a container where they were apparently being charged in readiness for Saturday election when it was discovered that a section of the container was in flames.
The source added that INEC officials later went to sleep with the hope that the fire has been quelled without knowing that fire was still building up underneath.
An INEC adhoc staff who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We were sent outside when the fire escalated, raising dust everywhere. We came to collect our posting letters and they told us to drive out keep our properties at safe range in case the fire gutted the entire building.”
Confirming the incident, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in the state, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, said only smart card readers and other sensitive materials were in the burnt containers.He explained that the burnt container had been in use by INEC since 2011.
On whether the fire incident would mar Saturday’s election in the state, Orji said they will first study the extent of damage to know the next step to take.
His words: “We have to assess the “situation before we come out to logical conclusion on materials destroyed. I don’t know if the materials were configured because I am just arriving the office.”
Though the Resident Electoral Commissioner had said only smart card readers and other sensitive materials were in the burnt containers, earlier at the stake holders’ meeting with political parties, the REC had told those present that a detachment of the Police Mobile Force had already been dispatched to Central Bank Owerri, Imo State to convey the sensitive materials to Awka ahead of the election.
The REC’s earlier submission at the meeting hence questions the truth in his submissions over the safety of the sensitive materials.
As at the cause of filing this report, the cause of the fire incident is yet to be ascertained.