By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”THE Federal Government, yester-day, said it has no plan to withdraw soldiers from Edo State as claimed by the state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, saying â€œthere was no reason for anybody to feel aggrieved over the recent action of the central government.â€
Oshiomhole had accused the Federal Government of withdrawing soldiers from parts of the state in order to make the state ungovernable a and declare a state-of-emergency, thereby ousting him from office.
Minister of Defence, General Godwin Abbey (rtd), who fielded questions from State House correspondents, explained that what the Federal Government did was to withdraw military men from local government areas where elections are due to be held soon. He explained that as part of the electoral reforms, soldiers are not allowed to be deployed for election.
According to him, â€œin the circumstances of Edo, what was directed was that in the local government, that is Fugar, where election is to be conducted, the military men should not be there. But there are instructions to standby in readiness to support the Police if the situation escalates or gets out of hand.
According to him, â€œconstitutionally, it is the responsibility of the police to supervise the conduct elections. It is the responsibility of the police to ensure law and order everywhere in this country.â€
He further explained that â€œmilitary base is not far away from Fugar. They are in Agenegbode and they have a battalion there. In Auchi, you have a battalion and both of them are about 25 minutes drive from one another.
‘Military should be neutral’
â€œWhat is the hue and cry all about? We want to ensure that the military is neutral in this matter of elections.
It is a fundamental aspect of the electoral reform. We want to ensure that our democratic process is consolidated and we will not give any inkling as to the impression that we are not ready to go ahead with democratisation in this country,â€ he said.
Besides, he said, â€œif there are threats of breakdown of law and order, then the military could be encouraged or ordered to join the police to restore law and order. The moment they finish the restoration of law and order, they are expected to pull back and allow the police to continue with their normal duties.
â€œBoth agencies of government operate at different levels. The police by training and conduct, are expected to generate peace and work for peace while the military, on the other hand, are called upon when things go wrong and the police cannot cope.
â€œThe nation can then invite the military,â€ he said, adding that â€œif anybody is feeling terribly aggrieved, we do not see the reason why?â€