Breaking News
Translate

ELECTION VIOLENCE: INEC protests military actions, Army indicts police

…Insiders’ accounts of election rigging in Rivers, Bayelsa
…Military grave danger to our democracy – Bayelsa Council of Elders
…Hold Wike responsible – Nigeria Army
…Soldiers, APC behind the mess – Wike
…Gov Dickson warns of his next plan

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha (Yenagoa), Egufe Yafugborhi and Davies Iheamnachor (Port Harcourt)

SINCE  the last polls, things have not been normal in Rivers State, where the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, suspended, March 10, the electoral process due to heavy violence that dogged the March 9 elections in particular, later decided to collate results and conclude the process, but shortly halted, Tuesday, by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

The contentions are that a powerful Federal official used the Nigerian Army to violate electoral rules, including ballot snatching and intimidation of opponents, while another powerful official of the state government, recruited fake soldiers to overawe his opponents and security agents on polling day. It has been accusations and counter-accusations.

Prior to the re-scheduled February 23 takeoff of the 2019 general elections in Rivers state, the Nigeria Army had made it clear that its men would not be found near polling units. These were in repeated reactions to Governor Nyesom Wike’s allegations that an influential politician and his party had induced the military to take sides against him and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, when the elections come.

Spokesman for the 6 Division, Col Aminu Ilyasu, had in a pre-election readiness briefing, told    reporters, “If you see any persons in a military uniform go even as close as three meters to a polling unit, alert us, call us with the contact numbers we have provided.”

“Anyone so found near a polling unit would be impersonating. Our men have been trained to follow the rules, our mandate is not to be at polling units, but to assist the Police and relevant sister security agencies to ensure credible elections and we shall deal decisively with anyone found disrupting the elections,” he reiterated.

Going into the elections, the Army, by widespread reckoning, had actually kept safe distance from the polling units as citizens exercised their franchise in casting their ballots. Even key participants, including Governor Wike and Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, acknowledged this comportment of soldiers on election duties at the point people were casting their votes.

Police vow to apprehend killers of Sergeant in Bayelsa

It was at the points of collation that hardly any key observer, including the International Community, became unable to vouch for the Army on orderly conduct over the elections.

Except for perceived excesses of its combative arm, the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, FSARS, the Police with primary responsibility to secure the elections, men in military uniforms, who ran riot in several flash points, forced them to the back seat.

Against its denials, from the overwhelming observations and video  footage  that have flooded the media space, the invasion and hijack of the collation of results by real or fake soldiers had a targeted purpose. To deny Governor Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a clear lead in an election in which the only visible opposition, All Progressives Congress, APC, was by its own self-destruct, disqualified.

Moreover, without admitting it, the APC, desperate to push out Wike and the PDP from governance of the state, were the key gainers of the perceived partisan Army and FSARS roles the Army played in the elections.

APC leaders, mainly of the Amaechi- led faction, had vowed, “To do to Wike what he did to us in 2015”, the catchphrase for exerting “federal might” against Rivers PDP as it pulled its weight behind hitherto anonymous African Action Congress, AAC, governorship candidate, Awara Biokpomabo.

Army takes umbrage

The Army first expressed umbrage when reports that emanated after the elections, both from the media and PDP, suggested that soldiers caused electoral infractions in the state and other parts of Niger Delta.

Buratai
Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai / AFP

Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, in a statement, asserted, “Credible intelligence available to the Nigerian Army (NA) has confirmed the kitting of political thugs with military uniforms and arming of same, to impersonate soldiers and perpetrate various crimes in the furtherance of the activities of their political bosses.”

“Sadly, these thugs have severally been wrongly viewed and addressed as real military personnel on various social and mainstream media channels, including blogs, chat rooms and messaging platforms thereby bringing the reputation of the Nigerian Army on several occasions to disrepute.

“The Nigerian Army understands that most civilians caught in the callous onslaught of these murderous thugs might not be able to distinguish between a genuine soldier and an impersonator, especially when they are armed with military-type weapons.

“However, several of such arrested impostors have given useful information that has led to unraveling the level of criminal involvement of some politicians in arming thugs for their depraved selfish gains.

“Consequently, the NA would continue with the line of investigations being pursued to bring to successful prosecution, both the arrested impostors and their sponsors.

“In the interim, the NA would continue to advice well-meaning citizens to avoid been used as tools in the hands of such wicked politicians who would go to any immoral length, including meeting out violence, to steal the mandate of the people.”

Sagir said, “Nobody’s selfish ambition is worth the life of an innocent Nigerian citizen. Additionally, the NA would continue to use every opportunity available to remind Nigerians of its apolitical, neutral and non-partisan stance.

“The NA would continue to execute its constitutional responsibilities of providing aid to civil authorities in order to create a safe and secure environment where real democratic processes would thrive.

“To this end, the NA would gladly welcome any information from the public about known or suspected impostors/armed thugs being used to perpetrate violence in the society, for the furtherance of the wicked ambitions of any criminal individual.

“Please be assured that every such information would be treated with the highest level of confidentiality”, he added.

INEC confirms military involvement

INEC in its official reaction to infraction in Rivers state flayed the Nigerian Army over the manner its men intruded in the March 9 governorship/state assembly elections in the state.

Nigeria’s 2019 polls: The good, the bad and the ugly

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in a statement in Abuja, last Friday night, regretted,    “Collation centres were invaded by some soldiers and armed gangs resulting in the intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials, thereby disrupting the collation process.”

He said the commission would “engage with key stakeholders in Rivers State with a view to ensuring a smooth and peaceful completion of the process,”  adding that results from 17 of the 23 local councils in the state were in its custody.

Military provoked, blasts INEC, Police

On Monday, the Nigerian Army exploded against INEC and Nigerian Police in Rivers state. It indicted INEC over the position it adopted regarding the governorship election in the state.

In a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations in Charge of 6 Division, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, the Army accused the Festus Okoye committee of lacking sincerity in its final report.

Colonel Iliyasu said: “Headquarters 6 Division Nigerian Army (NA) has observed with dismay and sense of betrayal in the statement made by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) signed by its National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee Festus Okoye Esq on 15 March 2019.

“The statement according to INEC was the findings of its Fact-Finding Committee that assessed the situation in Rivers State.

“It is, however, pertinent to note that, representatives of the 6 Division met with the Fact-Finding Committee on Tuesday 12 March 2019 at the INEC Headquarters in Port Harcourt and had honest discussions and made a written submission to aid the Committee in its task.

“  Regrettably, none of the Division has input from any of the findings of INEC as made public. This clearly indicates lack of trust by an institution that the NA sacrifices so much to assist in the course of performing their role.

“What INEC failed to mention or even consider is the fact that at about 10.30 pm on Saturday, 9 March, 2019, troops of 6 Division, NA, detailed at the outer perimeter of Obio/Akpor Local Government headquarters’ Collation Center were brazenly attacked by Governor Wike’s security aides and armed thugs.

“Who stormed the collation center with the governor in a convoy of more than 50 vehicles, while collation of results was going on, in the ensuing melee, Captain Adams Salami was shot at close range by the security aides of Governor Wike while Corporal Adeosun Adebayo was macheted by Governor Wike’s thugs.

“Both victims are currently receiving treatment at University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) Intensive Care Unit and Military Hospital Port Harcourt respectively with life-threatening injuries.

“Thereafter, election materials were carted away and electoral officials abducted by the Governor’s thugs to an unknown destination. This was made known to the INEC Fact-Finding Committee but INEC does not see it worth condemning or mention in its report.

“Consequently, after due consultations and considerations between 6 Division and the Rivers State Police Command on Sunday the 10th of March 2019, the Rivers State Police Command, on their own, took the initiative to invite the media to the hospitals where the 2 victims are receiving treatment.

“And thereafter host a press conference on the matter with the view to dissociate itself from the unprofessional conduct exhibited by their men, attached to Wike and tell the public what disciplinary action the command will take or is already taking.

“  However, while the visit to the victims was accomplished and the two victims interviewed by the media, the press conference was aborted by the Police after journalists have been assembled.

Victim of Rivers political violence, Ferry Gberegbe, dies seven days after gunshot

“Coincidentally, a rescheduled press conference on the matter was also aborted on Thursday, the 14th of March 2019. Most disheartening is that while the Rivers State Police Command accepts the involvement of their personnel in the attack at Obio/Akpor LG headquarters, until date those personnel have not at least been reprimanded.

“To this end, in the circumstance, the 6 Division, NA, as a stakeholder in the 2019 general elections takes exception to the lopsided and therefore unfair INEC report and is hereby strongly and totally rejected by the NA.

“The Division is equally disappointed with the attitude exhibited by the Nigeria Police in this regard and hereby requests the police leadership to commence full-scale investigation of those security aides to Governor Wike that attacked troops at the Obio/Akpor LG headquarters’ Collation Center and shot at Capt AA Salami with a view to appropriately sanction those found responsible/culpable. Until that is done, Headquarters 6 Division NA will have to review all existing joint activities with the Rivers State Police Command.”

How we averted crisis in N’Delta – Army

Saying that the public should praise the Army and not castigate it for its role in the region, Col Musa further pointed out, “Despite pockets of crisis witnessed in few states, the election was conducted in a secure and peaceful atmosphere. To achieve this, the Army in conjunction with other security agencies struggled to checkmate criminals, kidnappers, political thugs, ballot box snatchers from having a field day to perpetuate their selfish illegal activities, in some instances at the detriment of soldiers’ lives as witnessed in Abonema and Andoni in Rivers State.”

“Specific instances abound where kidnappers and other hooligans were intercepted by the personnel of the Nigerian Army in many parts of Nigeria. For example, around Everyday Super Market in Owerri , Imo State, 4 impostors in military uniform (Woodland camouflage), – Mr Chinedu Odogwu, ,Longinus Okelue , Oguzie Princewell and Kelvin Samalia were arrested while escorting a prominent female politician in a political party vehicle.

“This development further reaffirmed Nigerian Army’s earlier warning to members of the public of the activities of some unscrupulous individuals that sponsored thugs to defend and further their selfish political objectives.

“Accordingly, 34 Brigade troops on Operation Safe Conduct deployed around Osisioma junction, Abia State also arrested Mr. Allwell Enwereji and five others conveying already thumb printed ballot papers in his vehicle.

Wike

Col Sagir said on questioning, the Enwerej said the ballot papers were specimens for campaign. “ Investigation is on to ascertain the culpability of the suspects. Similarly, troops on patrol around power plant substation Odukpani LGA, in Cross River State rescued Mr Authur Nkama who was earlier kidnapped at Ikot Ansa, in Calabar Municipal Area Council, Cross River State.

“Troops also intercepted and arrested suspected ballot box snatchers at Airforce junction near Ngor Okpala LGA in Imo State on the 9th of March 2019.

“On sighting the troops, the suspects abandoned their vehicle and ran into the bush. Items recovered included one Sienna Bus, one pump action gun with 11 live cartridge, voter’s cards and assorted ATMs bearing different names.

“In another development, troops also rescued INEC staff abducted by hoodlums at Ohafia Technical College in Anna Village in Abia State on the 9th of March 2019.

“Four of the suspects have been arrested while efforts are on to apprehend other fleeing members of the gang.

“The suspects have been handed over to the police for further action. Similarly, five political thugs were nabbed at Lokpanta on March 9, 2019 while on their way to disrupt election in Lekwesi community in Abia State.

Re-run polls: IGP deploys 5 DIGs, 3 AIGs, 15 CPs

“Items recovered from them include camouflage trousers, daggers and assorted charms”

Deadly drama in Rivers’ flash points

The Army set off its crackdown on the Rivers PDP actually before the elections as the party chieftains in various locations, including their homes, hotels and hangouts were invaded by marauding military men, who left destruction and fear in their wake ,as several persons were whisked to the 6 Division Headquarters in Port Harcourt.

Most prominent of the pre-elections military offensives against the Rivers PDP was the arrest of the state Commissioner for Education, Dr. Tamunosisi Gogo-Jaja during invasion of his Port Harcourt, GRA residence, March 6, four days before the governorship election. Also invaded and ransacked was the palace ex-militant leader -turned monarch, King Ateke Tom of Okochiri Kingdom, Okrika local government area of the state.

Rivers PDP, in a statement by Jerry Needam, Media Aide the state Chairman, Felix Obuah, further said that over “50 houses belonging to prominent PDP members across the state have been destroyed and PDP members held hostage for no justification.”

Aside the prominent federal might working in favour of the APC, key actors also had the backing of desperate thugs to prosecute their quest for victory. The fatal tone to the Rivers election drama actually resulted from the conflict generated in flash points where the agents of federal might, security operatives worked at cross-purpose with resistant thugs.

In Akuku Toru, precisely Abonema, where the Army lost three men over the election period, Prince Eminent Bob-Manuel, who confirmed witnessing from “safe distance”, said, the Presidential Election Day shooting , which left and Army Lieutenant dead, “started as a gun duel between APC and PDP supporters”, his euphemism for armed thugs.

Prince Eminent further narrated, “Army came and told APC to leave the scene. Army then took their place. You know you can never fight government. Army came with overwhelming firepower. They killed several persons, shooting directly at the crowd. When the PDP boys knew soldiers had taken over, they made to run, but the Army shot ceaselessly from Jack’s Compound to Manuel’s which became the end theatre of the war.”

“Many among those who retreated ran with bullet wounds to their death in the surrounding river and swamps. They shot so many people, aside those who died right at the Manuel’s Square on the spur of the moment, we saw seven bodies in the river.”

The military authorities had officially said they killed six persons in alleged fight back, following the killing of a Lieutenant during the Manuel Square gun duel, but Oboma Ikiriko, community health worker and Red Cross official, corroborating Prince Eminent, said, “There may never be a definite knowledge of the body count but scores were killed.

“I moved four corpses, two from the river, two on land, to the morgue. From a phone we found on one of them, we tracked his family who came and took him to Ogbakri. When relatives to one other came, the body had become too awful to handle that they buried him in Abonnema. Two yet unidentified bodies are still in the morgue.”

In Bori, headquarters of Khana LGA and traditional nerve of the Ogoni, Sen Lee Maeba narrated how alleged FSARS invasion of collated center left deaths on its trail.

Maeba said, “On March 9, we got to the collation center, collation was not taking place. They (the opposition) were insisting that we should split the votes, 50 percent to AAC and 50 percent to PDP. We said we could not share votes with AAC because you do not exist here.

“We are not aware of any constitutional provision that will see genuine votes that have come from units, and say we should share them. We say we cannot share. We were having that argument when the SARS Commander arrived.

“Once he arrived, we started seeing body movements here are there. The AAC and APC people started leaving. A friend of mine then told me he cannot stay again, that the place is not conducive. I asked how, we would to resume collation. He entered his car and sped off.

“Five minutes after, all I heard was gunfire. Within 10 minutes there, over a 1,000 gunshots, powered with bomb-stocks as if we were at war. They shot Dr. Freddy Gberegbe in his tummy and he bled in pains. Lezua Gbiawe lay down on the field, dead. NYSC members were running for their lives, they started pursuing them, Gberegbe died seven days after.

“In Gokana, Eleme, Ogu/Bolo,  Okrika,   Obio/Akpor,   Port Harcourt City, Ahoada West and Abua/Odual LGAs,  what citizen reporters captured on video,  indicated varying degrees of Army or thugs perpetrated violence at subverting genuine votes of the Rivers people.

“Collation centres were invaded by some soldiers and armed gangs resulting in the intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials thereby disrupting the collation process,” INEC had affirmed in her statement on the Rivers election.

Breaking : APC rejects Tribunal’s verdict on Adeleke

The commission’s Head, Voter Education and Publicity in Rivers State, Edwin Enabo said in the day following March 9 governorship, “The INEC office is under siege by men in Army, Air Force and Police uniforms who have taken over.”

A source added, “They are stopping and screening people. They are clearing results before they enter the office to the extent that up till now, no collation has been done”. That siege remains until today and continues to unsettle traffic in Port Harcourt as the security operatives block off over half a mile on busiest Aba Road in the Rivers capital.”

Military disputes claim, says Wike stirred Obio/Akpor collation center chaos

Two soldiers, still battling for life, following bitter torture by suspected police officers,    during March 9    elections, in the state, blamed their ordeal on riotous entry of Governor Wike into the Obio/Akpor LGA collation center.

Spokesperson for 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Col Aminu Ilyasu, confirmed the trending video in which both victims narrated their ordeal and affirmed that information got to the Army that its personnel were so attacked.

Capt Adams Salami, who spoke under intensive care at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and Corporal Adeosun Adebayo at the Military Hospital, Port Harcourt sustained life-threatening injuries in the attack at the Obio/Akpor local government secretariat.

Capt Salami disclosed, “At about 2300 hours, we got information that hoodlums were trying to invade the Obio/Akpor collation centre. So, we were asked to provide security in that area, which we did in liaison with police officers, posted there. We agreed that there would be limited access into the premises.

“Five minutes later, to my surprise, the governor’s (Nyesom Wike) convoy came in with about 30 to 40 cars with hoodlums and thugs, some in police uniforms, shooting sporadically within the premises. As usual, we decided to step back. I was pleading with them as a soldier to resolve this amicably,” he said.

amaechi
Amaechi

Corporal Adebayo added, “The crowd was too much, so we had to reduce it. It was then the police officers in the governor’s convoy started mobbing, hitting us with their weapons. I could not figure out the reason because nobody asked anybody any question. The policemen were hitting us with the nozzle of their riffles.”

Wike abducted us, AAC agents allege

Meanwhile, three APC chieftains, who featured as party agents for the AAC in March 9 governorship and assembly elections in Rivers also accused Governor Wike of abducting them at same Obio/Akpor collation center, same day the soldiers were allegedly brutalized.

The accusers, Chikodi Dike, Alex Wele and Lawrence Chukwu, said thugs abducted them at alleged prompting of Governor Wike when he moved into the collation center on the Election Day and they moved them out on the governor’s convoy before they released them at Rumuola Road in the wee hours of the Sunday after the elections.

“We affirm Wike abducted us because all that happened to us happened because the Governor came in. When I was abducted, he took me in his car and my colleagues were in another car in the convoy before he released us in Rumuola”, said Dr. Chuku.

They are jesters – Rivers Info Commissioner

Reacting to the allegations, Rivers Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Emma Okah, described those raising the allegations over what transpired in Obio/Akpor as “clowns”.

Okah said, “They are clowns. No such thing happened; the APC and their ally AAC failed in the election. They are doing everything possible to divert attention from their shameful failure. Why would anybody abduct them?

“Of what use is their adoption, to gain what? They should bury their heads in shame that they were moving with soldiers to thwart the wishes of their people.”

Meanwhile,    in another trending video on the Obio/Akpor March 9 drama, Wike, in seeming protective cover for the accusers was heard saying he was shielding them from being lynched as they were being shoved into vehicles in the governor’s convoy.

Wike’s cry before the polls

Before the elections, Wike had raised the alarm over alleged plot by security agencies and the APC to kidnap the INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the state ahead of governorship election.

In a statement signed by Simon Nwakudu, S.A. on electronic media to Governor, the governor said, “They are struggling to ensure that the Governorship and State Assembly elections don’t hold in Rivers state. The APC is planning with security agencies to kidnap the Rivers State Independent National Electoral Commission REC.”

Wike said the ploy to kidnap INEC REC was to ensure the postponement of the Governorship and State Assembly elections in the state.

Wike further exposed that the State Government had also intercepted credible intelligence that the APC also plans to use the security agencies to generate mass violence to disrupt the distribution of election materials on March 9, 2019

Election stalemate: Rivers politics hijacked by cultists parading as capons- Horsfall

“They will send people wearing army uniforms to kidnap the Resident Electoral Commissioner so that INEC will be forced to postpone the elections.

“That is their latest strategy and so I have to let the world hear that if anything happens, they should hold the APC and security services responsible.

“These people are not kidnappers; they are security agents organised by security agencies working for APC to see that the Governorship and State Assembly elections don’t hold in Rivers

What politicians, parties did to manipulate elections in Bayelsa

My experience – Sam Oyadunga

In Bayelsa, one of our reporters, who covered the elections, said, “Just like the presidential and national assembly elections, there was heavy presence and deployment of security personnel (soldiers, police and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC) across the state.”

“However, the soldiers were more visible and they locked down state capital. Heavily armed soldiers backed by armoured personnel carriers mounted roadblocks. Their intimidating sights and brazen demeanor was enough to scare away voters.

“Yours sincerely alongside five of our colleagues were also almost manhandled during the presidential and national assembly polls, along the Opokuma Road by stern- looking soldiers. Our offence, according to the overzealous soldiers led by a lieutenant, was that we were on the road.

The soldiers ignored our explanation that we were on election duty even when we displayed our identity cards. The soldiers ordered us to come down. They not only frisked us, they thoroughly searched the vehicle before we were asked to proceed.

My thinking at this point was that perhaps if soldiers used the same energy they expended in the polls on hoodlums terrorizing, robbing, maiming and killing innocent travelers on the Ndele-Emohua stretch of the East-West road in neighbouring Rivers, they would have since restored sanity in the troubled route.

It is obvious that vote buying has come to stay in our electoral process. In all the polling units visited, political parties’ agents were on ground to pay voters, who voted for them. The party agents stood close to the polling booths to peep into the ballot paper of the voters to ascertain which party they voted for and if they were satisfied that they (voters) voted for them, they would usher him/her to a nearby location where the voter was paid. In fact, there was competition between the parties on who was paying the more.

As observed by this reporter, the amount of money paid by a political party influenced or determined the votes garnered. They carried out vote buying with impunity and in full public glare. The voters were informed on what they would be paid.

As also observed by this reporter, votes-for- money is gradually creeping into the consciousness of the electorates. For instance, in one of the polling units visited in a community of a high-ranking political office holder, many voters were reluctant to cast their votes because money was not paid. Some of the voters even vowed not to cast their votes if they were not going to be paid.

There was a mild drama in one of the riverside communities (Odi) where a lady almost disrupted the process, insisting that her shop was converted to a polling unit without her consent. Her anger was that while other shops opened and made brisk business, they shut her own without paying compensation. She wanted compensation.

However, the intervention of some security operatives brought the situation under control as the aggrieved woman was pacified and assured that they would channel her complaint to INEC.

Buhari should rein-in soldiers- Activists, elders

Niger Delta rights activist and President, Ijaw Professionals Association, (Homeland chapter), Barrister Iniruo Wills said, “It is ominous and bodes great evil for Nigerians’ quest for democracy.

“The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces who has ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the military, needs to urgently rein in the troops unleashed on the electoral process, especially in some states of the Niger Delta like Rivers and Bayelsa States.

“This will help him get on with the work of critical governance and avoid or minimize costly distractions caused by overambitious political underlings. The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, should also take a quick and public position on this, as his current silence exposes him as acquiescent and complicit.

“If our country is swarming with armed thugs decked in the uniforms of our armed forces, wreaking mayhem all over the place and unchecked, what does it tell you about the efficacy of our national security system?

Dickson
Governor Dickson

“The implication is that, except the system is effectively overhauled, as a matter of emergency, the various existential threats currently across the land (Boko Haram, herder-farmer, etc) may not only degenerate but actually be just the tip of an iceberg ahead. The security forces are too important in our national life to not handle this better.”

Bayelsa Elders Council also decried what it described as the militarization of communities in the state during the elections.

In a communique issued at the end of an emergency meeting held in Yenagoa, the Forum condemned the loss of lives in some parts of the state during the exercise and the role played by some security operatives.

Election stalemate: Rivers politics hijacked by cultists parading as capons- Horsfall

The communique jointly signed by the Council’s Chairman, Chief Francis Doukpola, its Publicity Secretary, Chief Thompson Okorotie and Chairman of the State Traditional Rulers Council, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, called for abrogation of deployment of soldiers in subsequent elections.

The elders noted that a situation where security agencies especially soldiers drafted to maintain law and order connive with any political party to disenfranchise the electorate, portends grave danger to democracy and peaceful coexistence of the people.

Gov Dickson accuses soldiers of hijacking electoral materials

Speaking in similar tone, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State condemned in strong terms what he described as the Army’s invasion of Bayelsa and the flagrant violations of the right of the people to vote.

He said that the Army, which has a statutory responsibility to protect the territorial integrity of the nation, had assumed the “sickening and disgraceful” role of terrorizing innocent communities with a motive to rig elections in favour òf the ruling party in the country.

Dickson, who in a statement in Yenagoa by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Fidelis Soriwei, decried  the barbarism displayed by the soldiers, warned that he could call out the Bayelsa citizenry to embark on a massive peaceful protest against the illegalities being perpetrated by the Army.

He said while the Navy maintained its integrity throughout the period of the elections, the men of the Army engaged in hijacking electoral materials to spearhead the plot to rig the elections for unpopular politicians of the APC.

“In 2015, this country was on the right path with decision sanctioned by the then, President Goodluck Jonathan when we authorized the use of the smart card. If INEC had implemented it faithfully, made necessary investments, and if the APC-led Federal Government had pushed forward the frontiers of electoral reforms, Bayelsa State and indeed, this country will not be going through this situation.

“President Muhammadu Buhari willfully refused to sign the Electoral Amendment Act, knowing fully that his party and he would use unorthodox and every available means to declare themselves as winners.

“They are kidnapping electoral officers and intimidating and even out rightly preventing our people from voting because they know their party is not popular. The nefarious activities they are carrying out in the name of politics are plain terrorism.

“It can only happen in a country like Nigeria. Things like these show clearly that Nigeria is almost a failed state because it is only in failed state that state institutions collude with criminals.

“When you have institutions that are so weak that they now have to aid and abet crime and criminality instead of working for the national interest, you have a failed state.

“The APC has turned our democracy upside down. They have taken us over 30 years back. By 2015, everyone knew we were making progress but we all know where we are today.

“You can imagine soldiers of the Nigerian Army snatching electoral materials from various constituencies. I do not see the logic in a major of the Nigerian Army leading people to Constituency 4 of Southern Ijaw to terrorize innocent voters.

“The Army is invading this state. I urge our people to be calm. However, the Army should not assault us as a state. We are not electing Army officers; we are not electing people to represent the Army. We are only trying to elect our representatives and they should allow us to do so.

PDP to APC: Our party will win all supplementary polls

“If they continue this way, I will be left with no other choice than to call out our people in all the communities of this state for a peaceful protest,” Dickson said.

He also advised the commanding officers to prevail on their junior ones not to jump into the fray but to be neutral, professional and provide general security in the interest of the country.

The governor also called on the Residence Electoral Commissioner in the state to redeem his image by investigating the card readers and cancel the wrongfully declared results in areas where people disrupted the elections or elections or did not take place.

Mixed feelings over military probe

The Nigerian Army has taken a step ahead by setting up inquiry into alleged involvement of soldiers in the purported infractions,  but the Executive Director, We the People, Ken Henshaw, described it as a charade because the Nigerian Army has already taken a position by claiming that those who disrupted  collation were thugs in military uniform.

Henshaw, who was an observer during the elections in the state, said the army decided to set up the committee following the damning indictment slammed on it by INEC for the unprofessional role its personnel played.

“Nothing will come out of this because the Nigerian Army has  taken a position in this matter already by claiming that thugs in military uniform disrupted the election. So, they mean thugs drove fake tanks, fake armoured personnel carriers and were armed with AK-47 all over the state, yet nobody was arrested,” he said.

In addition, a retired director of State Security Service, Dr. Toyin Akanle, expressed serious concern about the composition of the committee, saying the army should have considered other segments of the society in the composition of the committee.

According to him, the army should have taken into cognizance, the mood in the society and ensure that people have confidence in the committee, and accept the outcome of their reports.

“They, military, need to get to the root of this issue, if not, before they know it, the confidence of the people in the military would be completely eroded. This is because for the people to see people in military uniforms snatching ballot boxes and intimidating even INEC officials, it is not the best and I do not want to believe that they are members of the armed forces, but if they are, it is very unfortunate

“These things happened before the military, so why did they fail to do anything about them? Basically these are offences against the electoral process and if they were so deployed then they have taken part in the offences.”

“The army should have even incorporated some of the observers in the committee as constituting the committee with own personnel may not speak well because dogs do not eat dogs.   It is not that I do not have confidence in them, but everybody would be trying to free himself of blame.

“That is why I will suggest that they take from other segments like the Senate, and House Committee on the Military should have been part of the committee. Even the media and the people from the affected communities,” Akanle said.

Security analyst, Senator Iruegbu, is of the view that setting up a committee is the first step in redeeming the image of the military.

According to him: “Why this is important, especially for the current leadership of the army, is because it took decisive steps after the 2015 elections to rid the service of personnel alleged to have interfered with the elections.

“At the end, about 38 senior officers among whom were some of the finest servicemen were retired under the guise that some of them aided the then ruling party PDP to rig elections.

“So it begs the question why the army that did not blink to retire 38 of officers because of alleged election interference in 2015 should be caught in the same web of allegations four years down the line. That is why the investigation is necessary.”

Adeola Araoye, a retired anti-bomb police officer said the committee was a welcome development, as it would reveal the alleged misconducts committed, adding, if found guilty, they should be punished in order to serve as a deterrent to others.

However, a political analyst, Comrade Ema Jimo doubts the committee’s ability to sort out culpable soldiers. According to him, the process leading to the involvement of the army was faulty as it is out of place for the military to get involved in elections.

It’s wrong to say election was militarised, says Gen Buratai, Chief of Army Staff

However, the Rivers State  PDP chairman, Felix Obuah, has lauded  army authorities for the committee to probe the allegations of misconduct, including the assassination attempt on Governor Nyesom Wike by soldiers.

“We wish to assure the Chief of Army Staff that the PDP will appear, present and prove before the committee with facts and evidence, the atrocities committed by his soldiers against the electoral process and the people of Rivers State before, during and after the 2019 general elections.

“In the same vein, we wish to call on the acting Inspector General of Police, Mr Abubakar Mohammed Adamu to institute a similar panel to probe the brazen involvement of the Rivers State Commander of F-SARS, Mr. Akin Fakorode and his gang of police operatives.

He said the police should investigate the organized invasion of polling units, collation centres, abduction of electoral officers, shooting and killing of innocent persons during the general elections at Khana, Gokana, Ikwerre, Eleme, Tai, Oyigbo and Ogu/Bolo local councils by the officers.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.