By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) and election observers have called on the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to immediately prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari over the ongoing militarisation of the South-south states ahead of Saturday’s governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections.
The president had on Tuesday met with service chiefs behind closed doors and heads of other security agencies at the Presidential Villa, Abuja with a directive to deploy more security agents in Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom States.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja Wednesday, the National Coordinator of the group Jacob Okpanachi noted that it became imperative for the group to draw the attention of the media, Nigerians and the international community to the attempt mainly to intimidate, harass and build unnecessary tensions around an election process, which ordinarily should be a civil exercise.
Okpanachi stressed that the conduct of the military during the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections and the heavy deployment of troops in states such as Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers, raises serious question as to why such became necessary, especially when the military have not only engaged in partisan activities, but also lacks capacity and knowledge of being competent to be involved in the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
He stated: “We have a duty to our country, to Nigerians and democracy, in ensuring that every elements that threatens our democratic growth are challenged and rejected as a matter of patriotism.
“We must not allow desperate politicians and their collaborators within the security agencies, to truncate this democracy. And when we find ourselves under such circumstance such as is presently being witnessed, appropriate action must be taken not allow our democracy not to be derailed.
“We are calling on ECOWAS, African Union and the United Nations to immediately prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to cease the ongoing hostilities against the people of Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and other states presently under military hostage ahead of Saturday’s elections.”
Okpanachi warned that any attempt to derail democracy would be too tragic for the country to bear, adding that the nation must wake up to this reality.
He added: “We want the leadership of our security agencies, particularly the military to realise that we are taking notes of all their actions and every deeds shall be accounted for.
“We shall not hesitate to further petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) if there is any violation of the people’s rights and we will begin to petition embassies and demand measures which include but not limited to denial and withdrawal of visas from whoever is involved in any violence that may emanate from this invasion.”
Also, the Secretary of the group Olufemi Lawson said that the deployment of the military in Rivers is not working, noting that in Bayelsa the military has already stationed gun boat, while also designating 10 local government areas as flash points in Akwa Ibom State.