Fire guts INEC HQ's voter registry

THE PUNCH Newspaper

AN early morning fire on Monday ravaged the Voter Registry Department of the Independent National Electoral Commission, destroying some equipment.

But the electoral body has said that the fire would not have any negative impact on coming elections.

“The fire outbreak has no effect on the oncoming elections as no data was affected,” Director (Public Affairs) of the INEC, Mr. Emmanuel Umenger, told journalists in Abuja on Monday.

While the fire that started at 9.00am and raged for over 30 minutes affected the VRD, INEC said no vital document of the commission was consumed.

The Commission’s Director of Information and Communications Technology, Chidi Nwafor, who also confirmed the incident said, “Our data, sensitive data system, and our saver where all the data and operations are kept are intact; nothing has been damaged, we are still investigating. It is just that office and some office equipment were burnt.”

Also, no life was lost to the fire that was eventually extinguished by personnel from the Federal Fire Service and the National Emergency Management Agency.

The incident came barely 18 months after a similar fire broke out in the office of the commission’s chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, destrotying the visitors’ room as well as some sections of the computer department.

Talking to journalists at the scene of the fire incident, Nwafor said, “There was a fire incident this morning. Between 9:12am and 9:30am, we started perceiving odour like a burnt odour, so what we did was to look for the place. It was in the department they call voter registry.

“Most of us that were around that time had to use the normal fire extinguisher to try to stop the fire and at the same time we called the fire service and the fire service came, when the fire service came the NEMA came, as I am talking to you now, the fire has been quenched. So, no more fire now. It was only one office that was affected.”

Some of the Commission’s staff however confided in our correspondent that most of the office equipment and other things that were destroyed in the fire would have been saved if the security personnel had granted access to the staff that first rushed to the scene.

The staff also blamed the extent of the fire on the type of material used in constructing the building which they described as “attractive to fire.”

Fire incidents are commonplace during harmattan as currently obtained in the country.

Two days after last Christmas, a section of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s hilltop residence in Abeokuta was burnt, destroying the ex-President’s office within the complex.

Obasanjo later said he would have been consumed by the fire that started at 4.30pm.

Meanwhile, a statement by the spokesman for NEMA, Mr. Yushau Shuaib, said the fire at INEC gutted the commission’s Annex Building.

He said, “The Head of Abuja Operation Office of NEMA, Ishaya Chonoko, has confirmed a fire outbreak that occurred this morning (Monday) gutting an office in the Annex Building of INEC.

“The timely response of rescue officers, especially firefighters from the Federal and FCT Fire Service saved the situation from affecting other buildings within the premises.

“So far only an office (Office of the Director of Registry) was affected. There was no record of casualty because of the swift response to the distress call. The INEC office is behind the office of NEMA in Maitama, Abuja."


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