by Isi Esene
There was panic yesterday at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in Abuja, as fire gutted its registry department.
The fire, which started around 9am raged for about 30minutes before it was put under control.
Many feared the damage caused by the fire would have a crippling effect on preparations for the next general elections in the country but officials of the commission say this is not true.
According to the director (public affairs) of the INEC, Emmanuel Umenger, no vital document was destroyed by the fire.
“The fire outbreak has no effect on the oncoming elections as no data was affected,” he said.
While corroborating his statement, Chidi Nwafor, the commission’s director of information and communications technology 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.”
Sources say the inferno was put under control by the joint effort of men of the Federal Fire Service and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) who responded quickly to the distress call made by officials of the commission.
“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,” said Nwafor.
In a statement reportedly released by Yushau Shuaib, the spokesman for the NEMA regarding the INEC fire incident, further damage was averted by the quick response of the agency’s officers to the distress call to them.
“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.”
Recently in Abeokuta, Ogun State, a section of the Hilltop mansion of former president Olusegun Obasanjo was also gutted by fire but was quickly put off by men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corp.