Armed men believed to be assassins stormed the residence of the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kogi State, Dr. Gabriel Longpet in Lokoja Thursday night apparently to assassinate him and other occupants of the house.
The REC whose residence is located near the Kogi State Government House at GRA Lokoja, was, however, escaped the plot as he was not in the premises when the gunmen arrived and tried to force their way into the apartment
His whereabouts could not be ascertained by by press time as his telephone line was switched off.
Sources told The Advocate that soldiers deployed to guard his residence were said to have repelled the armed men but they succeeded in setting one vehicle ablaze right in front of the REC’s residence.
“But for the stiff resistance put up by the soldiers and some policemen guarding the premises the gunmen would have had their way. They were prevented after exchange of gunfire between them and the vigilant security operatives but a vehicle was burnt. I am yet to confirm the owner of the burnt vehicle but as I speak with you many security operatives are around the place and there is serious tension,” the source, who preferred anonymity, said.
The reason for the attack could not be immediately ascertained but a source close to the REC’s office said it might not be unconnected with Longpet’s decision to grant the legal team of the Social Democratic Party, SDP governorship candidate, Murtala Ajaka, access to inspect critical materials relating to the conduct of the November 11 2023 election in the state.
The Advocate reports that tension heightened in Lokoja on Wednesday when a mob said to be loyal to the All Progressives Congress, APC laid siege to the INEC Headquarters in the state capital to prevent any access to the commission’s office.
The SDP legal team could not get into the office to inspect the election materials as ordered by the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, a development that compelled the court to adjourn sitting.
The Tribunal sitting in Lokoja had on Saturday granted counsels to the SDP candidate the leave of the Court compelling INEC to allow access to materials and all documents used in conducting the election.
The Presiding Tribunal Judge, Justice Yusuf Ado Birnin-Kudu, compelled INEC to also grant access to Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and other electronic materials used within 48 hours.
The INEC REC confirmed in a statement her personally signed that the state headquarters in Lokoja was besieged by a mob on Wednesday morning explaining that “the siege prevented attorneys representing political parties involved in the recent off-cycle governorship election from inspecting documents/materials used in the election.
Longpet said that the mob barricaded all entrances to the INEC office and prevented access to staff to carry out routine duties. “It took the intervention of the Nigerian Army to calm the situation down at the State Headquarters. The security agencies have assured us that they will maintain normalcy on our premises.
“We assure all parties and litigants that the Kogi State office is committed to granting unimpeded access to all materials needed to prosecute their petitions,” the REC said.
The SDP had accused the APC of sponsoring hoodlums to barricade the INEC office to prevent its legal team from accessing the INEC office but it was learnt that following the deployment of soldiers to the premises, the commission was able to comply with the court order on Thursday.
The APC, on its part, denied the allegation accusing the SDP as the sponsors of the siege on INEC’s office.
The REC, as learnt by our correspondent, must have incurred the wrath of the ruling party for complying with the order of the tribunal by granting the opposition party and their legal team access to the controversial election materials.