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Nigerian Army and untold story of Rivers elections

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Nigerian Army and untold story of Rivers elections

The new date for the Governorship and State Assembly elections following the initial poll shift announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may have come and gone with winners returned but that was not to be in Rivers and six other states. Collation process has been suspended in Rivers while the six states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Plateau, Kano and Sokoto were declared inconclusive.

The electoral umpire successfully hid under the guise of margin of lead as provided for in the Electoral Act to declare elections inconclusive in six states, while blaming the suspension of collation in Rivers to interference by men in military uniform who disrupted collation in Port Harcourt.

These men in military uniform also invaded houses of political office holders and aided some political hoodlums to snatch ballot boxes in the full glare of cameras as evidenced in the video footages trending in most social media platforms in the country.

Regrettably, the electoral umpire, election observer groups-domestic and foreign, politicians, and the security agencies had continued to toe the part of blame game that Nigeria is known for.

Though the Nigerian army in a desperate face-saving measures, recently inaugurated 9 men investigative committee to carry out a forensic investigation into the flood of complaints against the misconduct of its personnel during the 2019 general elections.

While the committee is due to summit report of its finding on or before 31th of March 2019, the authority of 6 Division Nigerian Army heaped the blame of Rivers state fiasco on professional misconduct of personnel of Nigeria Police.

Deputy Director Army Public Relations, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu who slammed the Nigeria Police for orchestrating the crisis that led to the halting of collation in Rivers also accused the electoral umpire of bias against the Nigerian Army in its committee’s interim report on Rivers election.

Iliyasu said, “Genesis of the suspension of Governorship/State House of Assembly elections process in Rivers State. What INEC failed to mention or even consider is the fact that at about 10:30 pm on Saturday 9th 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 matcheted 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 to 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 2 victims interviewed by the media, the press conference was aborted by the Police after journalists have been assembled.

“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, till date those personnel have not at least been reprimanded”.

The spokesperson said that in the circumstance, – the 6 Division NA as a stakeholder in the 2019 General Elections takes exception to the lopsided and unfair INEC report, saying the NA strongly and totally rejects the report.

He added that the Division is equally disappointed with the attitude exhibited by the Nigerian Police in this regard and hereby request the police leadership to commence full scale investigation of those security aides of 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.

The army image maker threatened that until that is done, Headquarters 6 Division NA will have to review all existing joint activities with the Rivers State Police Command.

“Headquarters 6 Division Nigerian Army (NA) have 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’s input formed 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”.

However, the electoral umpire fired back at the Nigerian Army, insisting that the commission did not request assistance of the military at the collation centres, arguing that only the lead security agency-the Nigeria Police was charged with that responsibility.

Speaking exclusively to one of the national dailies, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Voter Education and Publicity Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye said, “I am not aware that the commission requested for the deployment of soldiers in collation centres.”

He further argued that “Section 29(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides that the commission can only request for the deployment of the Nigerian Armed Forces only for the purposes of securing the distribution and delivery of election materials and protection of election officials.”

Okoye said that the commission requested and received tremendous assistance from the Nigerian Air Force in airlifting and distribution of sensitive materials, stressing that the Navy has also been assisting in protecting election officials on the high seas.

“INEC expresses its displeasure with the role played by some soldiers and armed gangs in Rivers State, disrupting the collation process and attempting to subvert the will of the people”, he lamented.

Nonetheless, all effort by Nigerian Pilot to get the perspective of the Nigerian Police meet a brick wall as the Police Public Relation Officer, ACP Frank Mba did not take calls or respond to messages sent to his mobile number on the aforesaid allegation by 6 Division Nigerian Army.

Quote

Section 29(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides that the commission can only request for the deployment of the Nigerian Armed Forces only for the purposes of securing the distribution and delivery of election materials and protection of election officials

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