By Kingsley Omonobi
ABUJA – Army authorities, Tuesday reminded its personnel and officers that severe disciplinary measures will be taken against any of them who violate the code of conduct of their participation in provision of security for the general elections rescheduled to start on Saturday, April 9th.
Speaking against the backdrop of soldiers manhandling of local election observers in last Saturdays botched elections in Akwanga, Nasarawa state, new Director of Army Public Relations; Brig-General Rafael Ishiaku Isa said “there are prescribed punishments for all kinds of indiscipline”.
According to him, “The Nasarawa issue was not supposed to be a problem. Incidentally, the Commander on ground is investigating the issue. As soon as I get feedback from the investigation, we will make the outcome known but as I said, the Commander on ground is aware of the matter and there are prescribed punishments for all kinds of indiscipline”.
On whether the army was still committed to ensuring the sustenance of democracy following various violent incidences perpetuated by politicians, Brig-General Isa said, “We are loyal, we will remain loyal and abide by our constitutional roles to defend democracy”.
Recall that soldiers deployed to Nasarawa-Eggon in Nasarawa state for the elections to provide security for the National Assembly elections pounced on some local observers who were recording the distribution of electoral materials at the INEC office even after they (Observers) were told that the result sheets for both the Senate and House of Reps’ election were yet to arrive.
Also, the three domestic observers from the Nasarawa Youths For Better Democracy (NYFBD) had their gadgets smashed by the team of armed soldiers while warning them against filming the process.
State Vice Chairman of the youth’s body, Samuel John Magaji who reported the incident to the local government electoral officer, Jacob Ajuh, explained that, “We were outside the INEC office in Nasarawa-Eggon; they approached us and demanded to know what we were doing. We told them we are observers and even displayed our identity cards and accreditation cards along”.
“They (Soldiers) understood and left us, but their leader turned back and ordered that we must stop filming the process. He demanded to know what we were going to do with the record. We told them; One, we wanted to capture and report exactly that what we saw, and Secondly, we told them what we saw was that electoral materials were being dispatched without the Senate result sheets”.
“It was at that time that the leader of the soldiers shouted back, asking what our business was if result sheets were not there; and if we did not understand what the INEC official said; that the result sheet was on the way from Abuja. He then ordered his men to seize our digital camera. They descended on us, beating us before everybody. They damaged something on the camera, and even smashed the phone of one of us before leaving”, the observer added.
When contacted, the electoral officer said the soldiers’ action did not receive any approval from INEC.