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Home arrow Africa arrow ‘Petty criminals stole DDC machines’
‘Petty criminals stole DDC machines’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by The Punch   
Dec 13, 2010 at 04:00 AM

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Adetonkunbo Kayode, DDC machines (background)

The controversy over the theft of some Direct Data Capturing machines at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, continued on Saturday with the Minister of Defence, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, and the Action Congress of Nigeria disagreeing on the motive behind the incident.

While Kayode said it was the handiwork of petty criminals, the ACN argued that “the desperation by some do-or-die political parties to gain undue advantage over other parties might be responsible for this stealing.”

The minister, who spoke with journalists in Akure on Saturday, said that it was not uncommon for things to be stolen at airports globally. He, therefore, warned politicians against politicising the theft of the DDC machines.

Disclosing that all “the criminals” behind the theft had been arrested, he advised authorities at the nation’s airports to be alive to their responsibilities to prevent future incidents.

The minister said, “Theft in any airport is normal. It is not acceptable but it is common. What happened was that some petty criminals stole some computers. Though they have all been arrested, it just showed that it is not uncommon.

“Many times you travel outside the country and you discover that your bag is missing. In fact, some airports are even worse; you have to hold on to your trousers because before you know (it) they (trousers) could be gone.

“I don’t want us to read political meanings to the issue; it was common criminals that stole the computers. These are equipment being supplied by a contractor that has not been delivered to the electoral body.”

But the ACN, in Lagos on Sunday described government’s explanation of the theft of the electronic equipment as a ‘cock and bull story.’

The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, lamented that the incident which took place a week ago had further raised fears over the transparency of the 2011 elections.

The party, therefore, called on ‘the authorities to look beyond the story being put out in the public domain’ by setting up an independent panel to investigate the theft.

The ACN dismissed as ‘ludicrous,’ the report that some people who were playing football near the airport saw the equipment being dropped on the tarmac from an aircraft and decided to steal them.

The statement reads in part, ‘‘The story over the arrest of those who allegedly stole the machines does not allay our fears at all. If indeed it is true, it bothers on criminal negligence and complicity and should attract dire consequences for all those involved, starting from INEC to the airport hierarchy.

‘‘But we doubt the veracity of this story, because the equipment involved are so critical to Nigeria‘s survival that no one in his right senses should put them in such a state where some scallywags will even have access to them.

“More worrisome is the fact that the equipment were said to be awaiting clearance when they were stolen.

“Why couldn‘t these machines be pre-cleared and all necessary formalities completed and duties paid in view of their importance?

“Should equipment as sensitive and important as DDC machines not have been subjected to better treatment? These are some of the questions agitating our minds over this issue.‘‘

ACN said the claim by the police, that they were not even informed in advance of the arrival of the machines, added to the absurdity of the whole issue.

It added, ‘‘We are more inclined to believe that those behind the disappearance of the DDC machines have ulterior motives. They could be seeking to know how to manipulate the machines so that they can then swing January‘s voter‘s registration to the advantage of certain persons or parties.

“They could also be seeking to carry out illegal voter‘s registration ahead of the exercise, which they can then smuggle into the main system after the authentic registration in January.

“Either way, only insiders can undertake such illegal acts, since they must be able to eventually have access to INEC‘s systems if their efforts are to be worth the while. This is why we seek an independent inquiry.‘‘

Before the AC statement was made available to journalists, Zinox Technologies Limited, an indigenous computer manufacturer that brought in the first batch of the DDC machines, had allayed fears that the theft of the equipment could jeopardise the conduct of the 2011 elections.

The DDC machines are the key component of the facilities needed by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the registration of voters ahead of the 2011 poll.

Zinox, which won the contract to supply 80,000 sets of the equipment, brought in 8,000 out of which 20 were stolen at the MMIA last Monday.

Sixteen of them were reported to have been recovered on Thursday by a combined team of heads of security operatives at the airport. Some people were said to have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Zinox, in a statement by its Communication Adviser, Echika Ezuka, dismissed fears that the theft of the machines would have an implication on the conduct of the general elections.

The company said that the stolen machines would be useless to anyone desiring to use them for electoral mischief.

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