INEC officials arrested for alleged card reader theft

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The Zone 9 Police Command, Umuahia, has commenced investigations into an alleged attempt by two Information Communication Technology workers of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abia State to steal sensitive electoral materials, including card readers, from INEC’s strong room in Umuahia.

According to the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Selina Oko, the suspects attempted to remove seven card readers from INEC office without authorisation.

The REC, in an interview with our correspondent on Tuesday in Umuahia, said the suspects did not seek her consent before attempting to remove the sensitive materials, describing the action as illegal and unacceptable.

Oko, who dissociated herself from the action, said she only got to know about it when some police officers from the Zone 9 headquarters came to pick up the suspects at the early hours of Tuesday.

She said, “I only learnt about the incident today. I was told there was a vehicle belonging to one of our staff which had sensitive materials and I found out it was true. Then I asked him, ‘Do you mean you leave this place with sensitive materials without my authorisation?’

“So, there was no authorisation to remove materials. In fact, the long and short of it is that I have handed them over to the police.”

The REC gave the name of the suspect as Nnamdi Nwabuko.

He added that the police also invited for questioning, the Head of Department of ICT, Mr. Herbert Ejiofor, “since the suspect is working directly under him.”

She said the two employees, seven card readers and the Toyota Camry car, belonging to the ICT employee, had been handed over to the police.

The REC said the police, at the gate of the Commission’s premises discovered the sensitive materials during a stop-and-search on Monday evening and prevented the car from leaving the INEC office.

Oko added, “Then this morning, police came and picked the car, the materials and, of course, the suspects.

“If they had sought my approval, I wouldn’t have approved it because I find it difficult to take away sensitive materials, even myself. The only sensitive material I have authorised to move is when my boss, Professor Attahiru Jega, tells me to send this or that.

“All I did was to go to his car and started asking him why they were doing that. And he said he was going to work with it. And I asked him, ‘Without my permission?’ But since the police are already involved, I will leave the police to do their work.”

Asked whether the suspects were among his trusted staff, the REC said she only assumed duty in Abia in January, 2015 and had not taken time to test the integrity of the members of staff.

The REC said, “Police should investigate and take the right action and if they need information from me, I will provide.”

Asked of her feeling on the discovery, she said, “Why won’t I condemn it when they are removing sensitive materials without my approval?

“I don’t know; it is just that this one was brought to my notice this morning and that is why I allowed the police to take them away.”

The REC was further asked whether she did not consider it worrisome that some other sensitive materials, especially result sheets, could be tampered with before the election tribunals commence sitting. She said, “If result sheets are tampered with there will be evidence.

“I am not saying they won’t attempt tampering with it, but if it is done, the evidence will show, because even the party agents and police have their copies.”

The REC also confirmed an attempt to burn down INEC office in Obingwa Local Government Area last week. She added that the Electoral Officer in the council told her that the arsonists tried to throw fire into the office through the window but the entire office could not be razed.

She noted that the commission’s office at Isiala Ngwa South LGA was also burnt down by unknown arsonists shortly after the poll, but added that the Commissioner of Police, Joshak Habila, had directed his men to beef up security around INEC offices in the LGAs.

Head of Intelligence and Surveillance of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, Chief Chidi Ahiabuike, said he gathered from his source that the HOD “conspired with some people to move some materials out from INEC to enable them to perfect their rigging plans.”

He alleged that the materials the suspects attempted to take away included result sheets of the controversial Osisioma, Obingwa and Isiala Ngwa North LGAs, whose results were cancelled but later reinstated by the Returning Officer, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba.

He said, “From the information that we got, there is an ICT expert that can manipulate the card readers. They have been working on this for the past one week, according to our surveillance, and they wanted to execute it last night but unfortunately for them, a new police officer, who was deployed in INEC, caught them.”

The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 9, Mr. Usman Gwarri, confirmed the incident but said investigations were ongoing to establish the real motives of the suspects.

He said, “We will do our investigations and after that we will establish whether any crime was intended to be done.”

 

Posted on May, 6 2015

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