Defend allegations of carting away election materials, governor charges army Petitions ICC, EU, others
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
There were protests yesterday at the Officers Mess of the headquarters of 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt when the army paraded a soldier, four policemen attached to Government House, the state Commissioner for Urban Development, Dr. Reason Onyia and others for various offences during last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.
In swift reaction, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has described allegations by the 6 Division, Nigerian Army that he tried to compromise the army to rid elections as mischievous and diversionary.
He said the army should rather defend allegations by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the military carted away election materials from collation centres in the state.
The governor also said the state would petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) and foreign missions on the atrocities committed by the army in the state during the last elections.
The suspects who all alleged that the army was framing them, also included the member representing Ahoada West Constituency in the state House of Assembly, Hon. Opokri Wanaka, some ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and some youths.
When Onyia, Wanaka and other suspects were paraded before journalists, and screamed that they were innocent.
They police officers paraded with some AK-47 riffles also protested that it was wrong for the army to parade them with riffles officially assigned to them as if they had illegally acquired them.
They also stated that they were performing their official duties when they were accosted by the soldiers and taken to the Port Harcourt Barracks, headquarters of 6 Division.
The continued protest and screaming of the suspects marred the live television airing of the programme.
Addressing journalists, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Aminu Iliyasu, said the army wanted to show the modest achievements of troops of 6 Division NA in close collaboration and synergy with all other security agencies in the Division’s Area of Responsibility (AOR) which covers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States.
“Equally of grave concern is the daring attempt by the Governor of Rivers State Barr Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to compromise security agencies particularly troops of 6 Division NA with hefty financial inducements to help him in his illegitimate act of thwarting a free and fair electoral process to his favour while accusing the NA and its command hierarchy of bias daily. Apparently, Governor Wike must have underestimated the NA’s commitment to being professionally responsive in the discharge of our constitutional roles.”
He recalled that the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Emma Okah, had on February 15, issued a statement alleging that a very senior officer of the command was attempting to tamper with INEC sensitive materials at the CBN Port Harcourt premises.
He said while the army refuted the allegation and demanded an apology from Okah within 72 hours or face legal action, the commissioner has “arrogantly refused to heed the advice”.
Meanwhile, Wike, has described allegations by the 6 Division, Nigerian Army that he tried to compromise the army to rid elections as mischievous and diversionary.
Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday in reaction to allegations, Wike described the allegation as false, malicious and diversionary.
He said: “I did say to the international community that if there is violence in Rivers State they should hold the 6 Division, particularly the GOC responsible. I also did say they were after my life, even though they held a feeble defense which holds no water.
“What the Public Relations Officer of the 6 Division said is very unfortunate; it showed lack of respect for constituted authority. What he did today in a democracy is a coup to overthrow a constituted government. That is what played out today.
“He said that I spoke to an army officer. I have every right. So many people were arrested that day. I had already before now said they wanted to arrest PDP leaders. On that particular day, Dr. Onyia called me that they were being arrested while escorting, as agents of the party, materials to Odiogu Community their village. They told the army that they were agents of the party but the soldiers did not listen. Then, the people said if you are not going to allow us, we will not allow the materials to move.
“I said I wanted to speak to the officer but he refused. Later he sent me his number and I spoke to him and told him I was sending the people back to him so that they resolve the problem. Let anybody say where I said he should do something else or that I will give so, so, thing. Let them show the tape 20 times. Let them say where I told the man: ‘do this for me and I will settle you or I will give you so, so, amount of money’. They have nothing to say.”
He said the army should rather defend its involvement in disruption of electoral activities at collation centres in the state. “With all due respect, the allegations are very mischievous. It show how disloyal they are to constituted authority.”
His words: “Now, the major problem which they should defend; The INEC officials came out and testified that the military came and carted away electoral materials and went away with electoral personnel to dubiously go and prepare results: you are aware that the Electoral Officer of Ikwerre Local Government Area sent out an SOS message that she had been put in detention that she must write result for them; and that was led by a Brigadier General of the Nigerian Army with the Minister of Transportation. Was it me that was compromising the EO of Ikwerre Local Government to write results? Who indeed was compromising?
“The EO of Okrika Local Government, Leo, did say one Capt. Inuwa led the team that came to cart away the material of Okrika. Am I the EO? Am I the INEC official who alleged that the military came and collected all their materials? Did the 6 Division defend that to say that it was not correct? The EO of Emohua Local Government did say the same thing,” Wike alleged.