- Urges Buhari, Buratai to call him to order
With the dusts yet to settle on the presidential election held across the country last Saturday, more than 77 political parties in Rivers State have come out to expose the brutality operatives of the Nigerian Army visited on the people of the state, commandeered by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarham.
The political parties, under the aegis of the state chapter of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), described February 23, 2019, as black, bloodiest and saddest day in the election history of the state as, according to them, the army decided to be overly partisan in breach of their abiding duty to be neutral and provide security of the electoral process.
The state IPAC in the statement that was jointly signed by state chairmen of all 76 political parties and read by its Public Relations Officer, Kukang Ledum Joseph, said the army action in the state was in total defiance to the assurance given by the acting Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim, that the army would not be directly involved in the 2019 general election process.
They noted that the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, and several other stakeholders repeatedly alerted the country on the planned partisan involvement of the army in the election process in the state, adding that all these apparently fell on deaf ear as the GOC, Major-General Jamil Sarham, flagrantly fraternised with the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state to rig, snatch election materials, harass Collation Officers and force them to allocate bogus results to the APC.
According to them, rather than respond to these weighty allegations against the GOC, invectives were poured on Wike and PDP stakeholders, calling them false alarmists crying wolf where there was none.
The Rivers IPAC therefore appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Yusuf Buratai, and the international community to prevail on the army to stay away from election duties in Rivers State and allow the police to perform their constitutional responsibilities for peaceful, free, fair and credible elections in the state.
The statement read: “But alas, here we are with the disastrous consequences of the failure of the military authorities and the INEC to reprimand and call to order the GOC and his soldiers of destruction that they deployed in Rivers State for unlawful election duties.
“What on earth can justify the killing of as many as 16 unarmed civilians by the army in a rustic community, which members were barely insisting on their participatory rights and freedoms in the face of the brazen onslaught by APC thugs to scuttle the electoral process.”
The Rivers IPAC further alleged that aside the brutal killing of over 18 innocent civilians, including an INEC ad hoc staff and an NYSC member, the soldiers prevented the general election from holding in Akuku Toru LGA and parts of Asari Toru and Degema
“General Sarham’s soldiers also supported APC thugs to snatch away election materials and prevented the elections from holding in Bonny LGA and some parts of Ahoada West and Okrika LGAs,” as they lamented the mayhem visited on Emohua and Ikwerre by the marauding soldiers.
The over 77 political parties said it was obvious that the direct partisan involvement of the army led to the cancellation of elections in six local government areas of the state, wondering the legitimacy of the results eventually turned in and declared by INEC for Rivers State in the face of the wanton killings, snatching of election materials and the other electoral maladies resulting from the elections across the state.
The group expressed fears that by brazenly betraying the public trust, the army can no longer be trusted by the people of the state to be neutral in the electoral process in the state, adding that even the forthcoming governorship and state assembly elections is also at risk.
According to the Rivers IPAC, “On February 7, 2019, the acting Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Agim, briefed the press in Abuja, and assured Nigerians that the army would not be directly involved in the 2019 general election process. He said: ‘…the Armed Forces of Nigeria wishes to re-affirm its neutrality, impartiality and strict adherence to professional code of conduct before, during and after the general election.
“Therefore, we would like to reiterate that the Armed Forces of Nigeria will carry out its constitutional duties with zero tolerance to unprofessional conduct. No military personnel are expected to fraternise with any political parties and associations’.
“In the week and days preceding last week Saturday’s rescheduled elections, the state governor and several other stakeholders repeatedly alerted the country on the planned partisan involvement of the army in the election process in Rivers State.
“Specifically, it was revealed that the GOC of 6 Division of the Nigeria Army was fraternising with leaders of the state APC to rig, snatch election materials, harass collation officers and force them to allocate bogus results to the APC.”