The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State has been gutted by fire destroying voting cubicles, ballot boxes among others.

INEC Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, confirmed the incident via a statement issued on Sunday.

He said INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, reported that the inferno occurred in the early hours of today.

“Our security guard on duty escaped unhurt but the destruction to the building and properties therein was extensive,” the statement partly read.

“Items destroyed include 345 ballot boxes, 135 voting cubicles, megaphones, water tanks and office furniture.

“The police, which have also been battling with attacks on its facilities and personnel in the area, is aware of the incident and has commenced an investigation.”

Okoye recalled that on the eve of the 2019 general elections, the newly constructed prototype LGA office in Ibesikpo Asutan was burnt down while two more offices of the Commission in Mkpat Enin and Eastern Obolo LGAs were bombed.

The INEC National Commissioner lamented that the recent attack on the electoral umpire after a recently concluded inventory of material.

He regretted that the ugly incident is coming as the electoral body prepares for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

Okoye added, “If unchecked, these attacks may constitute a setback on the Commission’s preparations, including the ongoing conversion of Voting Points to Polling Units, the forthcoming Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR) exercise and the conduct of polls.

“Nevertheless, the Commission wishes to assure Nigerians that we will leave no stone unturned to recover from the  incident in Akwa Ibom State as we continue to prepare for all electoral activities.”