Global Concerns Mount over Army Interference in Election

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  • UK: INEC should be allowed to work without intimidation   
  • INEC suspends electoral processes in Rivers  
  • APC wins Lagos, Gombe, Kebbi, Kwara, Niger, Jigawa, Ogun, Katsina  
  • PDP takes Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Oyo, Akwa Ibom

Our Correspondents

Following the massive and unprecedented deployment of troops, Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance (ISR) aircraft across the country by military authorities during the general election, especially in the Niger Delta states of Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom, there were global concerns that Nigeria’s democracy was being militarised.

Leading the global watchers was the United Kingdom, which expressed concerns over reported military interference in the elections, particularly in Rivers State.

But the Defence Headquarters insisted last night that deployment of troops during the elections was constitutional even as it denied knowledge of any judgment of the Court of Appeal to the contrary.

The Nigerian Army, however, accused politicians of kitting political thugs in military uniform during the governorship and state assemblies elections held at the weekend.The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in its reaction to the development described alleged confiscation of the Rivers State governorship election results by soldiers as treasonable and demanded their immediate release to avert serious crisis in the state.

On its part, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room condemned the conduct of the military in the elections and called for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the elections in order to unearth the anomalies that affected its credibility and those responsible for the malpractices recorded during the poll.

The UK Government, speaking through its twitter handle, @UKinnigeria, decried what it described as “military interference in the election process in Rivers State” following reports of UK election observers in Nigeria.

It said staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be allowed to do their job without intimidation.

“Extremely concerned by reports, including from @UKinnigeria observers, of military interference in the election process in Rivers State. Monitoring the situation closely; @inecng staff must be allowed to do their job in safety, without intimidation,” it tweeted.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, Defence spokesman, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, reiterated its earlier position that the role of the military was not under speculation but constitutional.

He said: “The Armed Forces does not act on its own. Whatever role the Armed Forces of Nigeria is playing in the electoral process is as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. I have made reference several times to Section 217-220 of the Constitution. Those roles are vested in the armed forces as enshrined in the Constitution.

“The military does not act on its own. If you look at those sections, you will understand the role of the military and why it is deployed. The military does not just wake up and deploy itself.”

On the Appeal Court judgment barring deployment of military personnel during elections, he said the military had not been availed of such judgment.

“Appeal Court judgment; nobody has availed me of that judgment. We are not aware of it. Where is it? If there was any appeal court judgment, was it to the military, armed forces or the government of the day?” he queried.

On the clash between police, military and the barring of party agents from a collation centre in Port Harcourt, Nwachukwu said military personnel were not deployed to collation centres but were part of three concentric circles in the security architecture of the election.

He explained: “The military is not deployed to collation centres. What happens is that there are three concentric circles in the security architecture of the election. In the inner cordon is where you have the intelligence community, the DSS and NIA. The other cordon is where you have the police and others and we (military) are in the external or outer cordon.

“We are protecting even other security agencies, which are involved in the electoral process, the INEC officials, the observers, we are the ones protecting them from the outer cordon, ensuring that political hoodlums do not infiltrate to cause mayhem in the collation centre.”

He explained further: “For instance, if somebody wants to infiltrate a collation centre, we are the first line of defence that they are going to meet and in the cause of interaction, maybe an official does not come with his ID card and he wants to force his way in, there will be issues and in the process people will begin to insinuate.

“The role of the Armed Forces is not under speculation, it is constitutional. Our role is also complementary and supportive. The lead security agency in this election is the Nigerian Police; we are taking the back seat.”

He restated the position of the Defence Headquarters that the military remained apolitical and would not want to be dragged into the murky waters of Nigerian politics, while noting that the military code of conduct remained the guide against unprofessional conduct as it concerns military personnel.

Meanwhile the Nigerian Army at the weekend accused politicians of arming and kitting political thugs to impersonate soldiers, who are used to cause electoral infractions.

In a statement entitled: “Arming of Thugs by Politicians to Impersonate Military Personnel,” it said the situation has led to an erroneous impression that real soldiers were involved in their nefarious activities.

It said: “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 NA on several occasions to disrepute.”

The statement signed by Army spokesman, Col. Sagir Musa, said: “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 from 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.”

While advising the public not to be misled by the development, it said the army would remain non-partisan and called for information on such acts of impersonation.

Main Opposition Party Kicks

The PDP in its reaction described alleged confiscation of the Rivers State governorship election results by soldiers as treasonable and demanded their immediate release to avert serious crisis in the state

The party, in a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the use of soldiers to ambush the electoral process and confiscate results was an extreme scheme by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Muhammadu Buhari presidency to enmesh the Rivers State governorship election in controversy, seeing that there was no way they could take away victory from the PDP.

According to him, “The PDP completely revile this subversive act by soldiers, who seized and diverted the results to an army barracks in Port Harcourt and calls on all lovers of democracy, to unite against this brazen attack on our democracy by the Buhari presidency and All Progressives Congress (APC). Such barefaced assault is only akin to a coup d’état and should not be allowed to stand.”

Ologbondiyan stressed that what the APC and its compromised soldiers fail to note is that the PDP already has valid documents of all the results as delivered from all the polling units where elections held across the state and that the figures are with all the stakeholders.

He, therefore, added that deploying soldiers to confiscate the results would not change the victory already recorded by the party in Rivers State.

Situation Room Condemns Conduct of Military, Demands Probe

In a similar development, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has asked for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the general election in order to unearth the anomalies that affected its credibility and those responsible for the malpractices recorded during the poll.

The observer group said that there must be individual accountability for the violence and manipulating of the election process.

Situation Room had earlier said out of the eight criteria and threshold spelt out for the measurement of the credibility of the elections, five of them show significant non-compliance.

In a statement read to journalists at a press conference held yesterday in Abuja,  the Executive Director, Policy & Legal Advocacy Centre and Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room,  Mr. Clement Nwankwo, said an independent inquiry is needed to address among other issues; procurement, logistics management, role of the military and abuse of process by INEC officials.

“In the light of the serious shortcomings with the elections, Situation Room calls for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the 2019 Nigeria general elections. This independent inquiry should address amongst other issues; procurement, logistics management, role of the military and abuse of process by INEC officials,” it said.

According to Situation Room, a non-partisan probe is urgently needed to identify challenges and recommendations towards repairing the damaged credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process.

On the alleged malfeasance committed by security agents, especially the military during the elections, Situation Room said the probe panel must ensure that individuals found capable are made to account for the violence and manipulation of the election process.

Situation Room said the militarisation of the country’s electoral process is a troubling one, adding that it was not just the presence of military officials, but the actions of the intelligence agencies, the use of the military by the political class and the partisanship and non-recourse to rules of engagement of the armed forces.

It cited examples of reports of excessive military involvement in the elections, particularly in the South-south and South-east – Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Imo.

It said: “This is a collective duty for all law enforcement agencies in Nigeria. We cannot as a country afford to permit this level of impunity and disruption of the election process. INEC should lead on this and transparently inform Nigerians where it encounters challenges.

“The number of fatalities around these elections is unacceptable. Voters, INEC officials and security agencies have lost their lives. We call for reasonably packaged compensation to families who have lost lives in these elections.

“INEC officials and security agents, who have suffered physical and psychological injuries, must be supported and rehabilitated.”

Situation Room also urged INEC to take the lead in pushing for reforms in the electoral process, adding that of immediate importance is the need for INEC to call out publicly, institutions, individuals and events that may have undermined its ability to carry out its mandate.

The election observer group said it is also important that INEC is honest in admitting its own failures.

INEC Suspends Electoral Processes in Rivers

Meanwhile, INEC has suspended all electoral processes in Rivers State after widespread disruption of last Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state.

The governorship election held in 29 states and Houses of Assembly poll in 36 states were characterised by complaint of violence and military interference in the process, particularly in the South-south states of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom.

However, results of the elections began to trickle in yesterday morning with Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) announcing the winners in their respective states.

At press time, 11 states had concluded the collation of results with the All Progressives Congress (APC) taking the lead with victory in five states, including Gombe, Kwara, Kebbi, Lagos, Niger and Jigawa.

The main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), took Oyo, Abia, Enugu, Akwa Ibom and Ebonyi States.

The South-south states had been restive since the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 23 as the federal government deployed large number of troops in them. But the most restless has been Rivers which had its electoral processes suspended yesterday by the electoral body citing widespread disruption of the elections in the state.

Unconfirmed reports had it that soldiers had taken over the collation centre in the state, ordering the staff of the commission to hand over the election results from the field to them.

But a statement yesterday by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Festus Okoye, said initial reports suggested that violence occurred in a substantial number of polling units and collation centres and that INEC staff had been taken hostage and materials including result sheets either seized or destroyed by unauthorised persons.

He added that the safety of the staff of the commission appeared to be in jeopardy all over the state and the commission was concerned about the credibility of the process.

Okoye stated: “Based on reports from our officials in the field, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has determined that there has been widespread disruption of elections conducted on the 9th day of March 2019 in Rivers State.

“Consequently, at a meeting held today, March 10, 2019, the commission has decided to suspend all electoral processes in the state until further notice. This is in line with Section 26 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and Clause 47(e) of the Regulations and Guidelines of the Commission.

“The commission has also established a Fact-Finding Committee to assess the situation and report back within 48 hours.”

“We appeal to the people of Rivers State, particularly the voters, for their understanding as we look into the circumstances of these disruptions and what further action needs to be taken.”

PDP Rejects Suspension of Electoral Process

In a swift reaction, the PDP rejected INEC’s decision to suspend all electoral processes in Rivers State after results had been collated.

The main opposition party in a statement last night by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, called on the electoral body to end its manipulative schemes and immediately declare the result of the elections in the state.

The party also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately call the security agencies, which it said had been annexed as departments of the APC, to end their siege on the electoral process, noting that any further delay was a recipe for escalation of crisis in the country.

Ologbondiyan stated: “The PDP alerts that this is a premeditated plan by the APC-led federal government to use the instrument of INEC and security agencies to truncate the wishes of the Rivers people as already delivered at the polling units.

“Our party contends that elections have been concluded in Rivers State; results of the governorship and House of Assembly polls have been declared at the various polling units, wards and local government collation centers and all returning officers and political parties on the ballot conclusively have the figures.

“It is, therefore, directly incumbent on INEC to declare the final results instead of deliberately creating openings for the subversion of the final process; a development, which exposes the commission’s complicity with the Buhari presidency and the APC to enmesh the election into unnecessary crisis.”

The party also cautioned INEC to note that a lot of innocent Nigerians have allegedly been killed by the APC in its desperation to forcefully take over the state.

It stressed that the commission should therefore save the state from more bloodletting by immediately declaring the results.

INEC Officials: We Fled our Headquarters Because of Army Siege

Earlier in the day, INEC officials in Rivers State had fled the state headquarters of the commission in Port Harcourt. The Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity of the commission, Mr. Edwin Enabor, told reporters that the staff had to leave because of siege to the office by men in military uniform.

Senior officers of the commission surreptitiously left the commission at noon when the military took over security, rendering the police to remain as bye standers.

Addressing journalists before leaving the state headquarters yesterday, Enabor said: “In fact, throughout the elections we had many reports of insecurity, molestation, harassment and assault on our staff and ad-hoc staff and the disruption of the electoral process throughout the state; in all the local government areas with the consequence that yesterday evening we were unable to see the results.

“Now, it is about 1p.m., the office is under siege by men in military uniform, Army uniform and uniform of the Air Force and the police, who have taken over the INEC office.

“They are stopping and screening people and clearing results before they enter the office to the extent that up till now, no collation had been done. So, that is the situation now.”

On the identity of the men, he said: “We don’t understand where the people are deployed from. We are not accusing the Nigerian Army or Air Force but what we say is that the people in the office right now are wearing the uniforms of the Army and Air Force.

“So, if they are not from them, we are, therefore, calling on them to come and rectify the situation and allow our officers to enter with their results without molestation, intimidation and harassment.”

Sanwo-Olu Wins Lagos

The APC governorship candidate, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, was declared the winner of the governorship election in Lagos State.

Sanwo-Olu polled 739,445 votes to beat his closest rival, Mr. Jimi Agbaje of the PDP who had 206,141 votes.

Declaring the results yesterday, the Chief Collation Officer, Prof. Eyitope Ogunmodede, said the total votes cast was 996,715, 977,476 while 21,239 votes were declared as void.

AbdulRazaq is Governor-elect in Kwara

Kwara State governorship was won by APC’s AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.

The Returning Officer for the governorship election, Prof. Mohammed Sanusi Liman, declared AbdulRazaq winner after the collation of results from the 16 local government of the state.

Lima, who is the Vice Chancellor of Federal University, Lafia, said AbdulRazaq scored 331,546 votes to defeat his closest rival, Mr. Razak Atunwa of the PDP who polled 114,754 votes.

Sani Bello Wins Second Term in Niger

In Niger State, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of the APC was returned to office, overcoming the PDP candidate, Alhaji Umar Mohammed Nasko.

The returning officer and Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Lokoja, Angela Miri, announced that Bello polled 526,412 votes to defeat Nasko who had 298,065 votes.

Badaru Re-elected in Jigawa

The Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammad Badaru was also returned to office for a second term. The Returning Officer, Prof. Azubike Nwankwo, Provost, Nigeria Defence Academy Kaduna, declared the result in Dutse yesterday, saying Badaru, who contested on the platform of APC got 810, 933 votes to beat his closest rival, Alhaji Aminu Ringim of the PDP, who scored 288, 356 votes, followed by Alhaji Bashir Adamu of Social Democratic Party (SDP), who got 32,894 votes.

He explained that the total number of registered voters are 2,109,477, accredited voters, 1,169,924, total votes cast, 1,163,206, while valid votes stood at 1,139,054, and rejected votes, 24,152.

Atiku Bagudu Re-elected Governor of Kebbi

Another incumbent APC governor, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, won the election in Kebbi State. The results announced at the State Collation Centre in Birnin Kebbi by Prof. Hamisu Bichi showed that Bagudu scored 673,717 votes, while Senator Isah Galaudu of the PDP polled 106,633 votes.

Yahaya Wins in Gombe

The APC candidate, Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya, also won the Gombe State governorship election. The INEC Returning Officer in the state, Prof. Saminu Abdulrahaman, who declared the result in Gombe yesterday, said Yahaya scored 364,179 votes to defeat his closest rival of the PDP, Senator Usman Nafada, who polled 222,868 votes and was returned elected.

He said that there were 1,394,386 registered voters, 627,457 accredited voters, 608,846 valid votes, 14,384 rejected votes and 623,230 total votes cast.

Makinde is New Gov in Oyo

The PDP reclaimed Oyo State yesterday as its candidate, Mr. Seyi Makinde, was declared the winner of the gubernatorial contest in the state.

The Returning Officer, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who is the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, said Makinde polled 551,621 votes  to defeat his closest rival, Chief Adebayo Adelabu of the ruling APC, who polled 357, 982 votes.

Makinde Won in 28 Local Government Areas while Adelabu won in five councils.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, congratulated him as the first PDP candidate to reclaim a lost state, saying the party was proud of him.

“We congratulate Mr. Seyi Makinde for his victory. We also salute the doggedness and resilience of the people of Oyo State in standing up to the APC rigging machine, including its army of occupation.”

Umahi Returns in Ebonyi

The PDP’s Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has been declared winner of the state’s contest.

Prof. Frank Chukwuemeka, INEC State Collation Officer announced Umahi as winner yesterday in Abakaliki.

Chukwuemeka disclosed that Umahi polled 393,043 votes to defeat his distant rival, Senator Sonni Ogbuoji of the APC, who polled 81,703 votes, to emerge the winner.

Ugwuanyi Too in Enugu

Also in Enugu, the PDP’s Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi got a second tenure. The state Returning Officer, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku, who announced the result in Enugu yesterday, said that Ugwuanyi won in the 17 local government areas.

Ahaneku said the governor polled 449,935 votes against his closest rival, Senator Ayogu Eze of the APC, who polled 10,423 votes.

Ikpeazu Wins in Abia

In Abia State, another PDP first termer, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, won the governorship contest.

The INEC Returning Officer in the state, Prof. Benjamin Ozurumba, said Ikpeazu scored 261,127 votes to win the poll.

The governor defeated Mr. Uchechukwu Ogah of the APC, who polled  99,574 votes. He also announced that Alex Otti, candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) scored 64,366 votes.

Emmanuel Re-elected in Akwa Ibom

In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel, was declared the winner.

Emmanuel, running on the platform of the PDP, will serve another four years in office after defeating his major challenger, Mr. Nsima Ekere of the APC in a landslide victory.

The returning officer and Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, Prof. Faraday Osasere Orumwense, announced that Emmanuel polled 519,712 votes to defeat Ekere who had 171,978 votes.

Masari Wins in Katsina

Governor Aminu Bello Masari was also re-elected as the governor of Katsina State for the second term, polling 1,178,864 to defeat his closest challenger, Senator Yakubu Lado Danmarke of the PDP who scored 488,621.

The state Returning Officer and Vice Chancellor of Usman Danfodio University Sokoto, Prof. Abdullahi Zuru, declared governor Masari winner of the election and returned him as duly elected.

INEC Declares Abiodun Winner Ogun

In Ogun, INEC declared Prince Dapo Abiodun of the APC as winner of the governorship contest.

While announcing Abiodun, the winner, the state Returning Officer and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan (UI), Prof. Idowu Olayinka, said the APC governorship candidate scored 241,670 votes to coast home to victory, while his closest rival, Mr. Adekunle Akinlade of the Allied  Peoples Movement (APM), came second with 222,153 votes.

Gov Poll in Bachi Inconclusive

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) early this morning declared Saturday’s governorship election in Bauchi State inconclusive.

The electoral body has therefore ordered a rerun election in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area to be conducted in 21 days time.

Rerun election,according to the electoral umpire, will also be held in all polling units across the state where election was cancelled.

Announcing the outcome of the keenly-contested election at about 12:13 am, at the INEC state office in Bauchi, which served as state collation centre, the state Returning Officer, Professor Mohammed Kyari of the Federal University of Technology, Adamawa, stated that the election is inconclusive.

According to him, the difference between the two top contenders, Governor Mohammed Abubakar (APC) and Senator Bala Mohammed (PDP) was not up to the number of registered voters in Tafawa Balewa LGA, which results had earlier been cancelled.

The local government has a total of 139, 240 registered voters.

The Returning Officer announced that Governor Abubakar polled a total of 465,453 votes, while Senator Mohammed, a former FCT Minister garnered 469,512 votes.

Professor Kyari informed that the difference between the two is 4,059 votes.

The results as announced by the electoral body are: BOGORO: APC – 7,442, PDP – 19,667; DASS: APC – 15,388, PDP – 12,411; KIRFI: APC – 15,562, PDP – 15,408; GIADE: APC – 17,004, PDP – 11,391; WARJI: APC – 17,939, PDP – 17,022; MISAU: APC – 16,282, PDP – 19,928; JAMA’ARE: APC – 12,901, PDP – 11,041.

Others are: ALKALERI: APC – 27,238, PDP – 34,625; ZAKI: APC-23,179, PDP – 24,582; DAMBAM: APC – 11,383, PDP- 11,846; GAMAWA: APC – 27,462, PDP – 18,998; SHIRA: APC – 23,061, PDP – 19,296; ITAS-GADAU: APC – 23,670, PDP – 20,054; KATAGUM:APC – 27,820, PDP – 26,666

And others are Toro: APC-57,655, PDP- 31,284, Bauchi APC-56,663, PDP-102,467, Kanjuwa:APC-24,687, PDP-23,588 and Darazo,