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INEC Abuja HQ on Fire!

There was pandemonium yesterday 07/01/2013 at the Maitama, Abuja headquaters of the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) following a fire outbreak at the premises.

The incident which occurred at 9:30 am, completely razed the office of the Director of Voter Registry at the Information Communication Technology (ICT). Nobody was injured. Other departments and offices were spared, but they were covered, for several hours, by thick smoke , causing the staff to wander within the premises. Combined efforts from the Nigerian Air Force, Federal Fire Service and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Fire Service saved the day.

Addressing newsmen shortly after the fire was put out, INEC’s Director of Public Affairs, Emmanuel Umenger, said the inferno was not allowed to spread beyond the Voter Registry office, interestingly, he did not explain the cause of the fire. However, he allayed fears that the fire damaged vital documents especially the data base. Umenger said: “As you have seen, the fire began and only ended in the office of the Director of Voter Registry. Due to the prompt effort of staff on ground, who alerted the relevant agencies, the fire was put out before it could spread to other places and luckily, the voter registration data base was not affected and the server was saved because the fire did not even get to that section of the building”.

On the implication of the fire on the next elections, the INEC spokesman allayed fears that it will affect arrangements for the polls. He said “the commission is poised to give Nigerians credible, free and fair elections at all times and this little incident will not in any way stop that, I must assure you”.

Earlier, the Director of ICT, Chidi Nwafor, an engineer, who conducted journalists round the affected office, said that the goods lost to the fire were personal effects of staff, some files and computers. He stressed that the extent of damage would soon be ascertained.

Meanwhile, some staff of the affected office including the Secretary to the Director of Voter Registry (names withheld) may have been invited by security agents for interrogation. Confirming that no life was lost in the incident, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in a statement, said that there was no casualty.

NEMA’s Head of Public Relations, Mallam Yushau Shuaib, said the cause of the fire was not known. INEC has, since April, 2011 suffered some fire outbreak. First was the security post and later, the waiting room of the Chairman’s office. That was on May 24, 2011. Before that, on May 16, the Electoral Institute was torched.

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