- Meets with Buratai’s Investigative Committee, calls for redeployment of GOC
By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has declared that the Nigerian Army played negative role during the 2019 general election that was the worst in the history of the nation.
He said that the Nigerian Army’s political interference in the state was the most unfortunate infraction in the nation’s democratic experience.
He also requested for the redeployment of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Major General Jamil Sarhem, for allegedly subverting the general elections in Rivers State, deliberately.
Wike spoke yesterday at Government House, Port Harcourt when he granted audience to the Nigerian Army Investigative Committee on Electoral Violence during the 2019 general election.
He said: “Throughout my experience, politically, I have never seen the Nigerian Army play the kind of role they played during the last general election.
“The Nigerian Army purely made political interferences all through. We will show you the visuals of the roles played by the Nigerian Army. If you go to the 6 Division, unless they have moved them out, you will see ballot boxes and electoral materials. The 6 Division served as the take off base for the electoral interference.
“We formally request that appropriate sanctions be meted out to the GOC of the 6 Division. It has never happened that the Army Division becomes the operational base of a political party. This GOC became actively involved in politics. He has his own government in Rivers State. He has no respect for civil authority.
“We seek the immediate redeployment of the GOC, Major General Jamil Sarhem. He cannot fight crime. Leaving the GOC here will be creating more crises. He is here to fight crime and not to play politics. If soldiers fight crime, the way they intervened in last elections, there will be no kidnapper anywhere.”
He said that elections took place across Rivers State in the polling units. He noted that aside Abua/Odual Local Government Area, Rivers people voted.
The governor said the challenge came during the collation of results when operatives of the Nigerian Army allegedly invaded Collation Centres to cart away Form EC 8C for the Governorship Election and Form EC 8b1 for the House of Assembly elections.
“Elections took place in Rivers State at the polling units. The only LGA where elections did not hold was in Abua/Odual.
“It was during the Collation that operatives of the Nigerian Army interfered. They will invade a Collation Centre, arrested the Electoral Officer, Returning Officer and mercilessly beat up the PDP agents. They carted away Form EC 8c for the Governorship election and Form EC 8b for the House of Assembly elections,” Wike told the Army Investigative Committee.
He took time to enumerate the areas where the Nigerian Army unleashed violence and deaths on Rivers people. He also listed the names of Army personnel who led the operations.
The governor said he regretted that the Nigerian Army was relegated beyond comprehension, alleging that the GOC took orders from the Minister of Transportation on the deployment of soldiers to opposition leaders in the state.
He noted that the situation became so bad that the Minister of Transportation had more than a platoon of soldiers attached to him each time he visited Rivers State to carry out his alleged anti-democratic activities.
The governor stated that soldiers indiscriminately arrested and detained over 200 PDP leaders, agents and supporters at Bori Camp before, during and after the 2019 Governorship and State Assembly elections.
He said as governor, he had no soldiers attached to him, but that ordinary opposition leaders have several soldiers attached to them for illegal activities during the elections.
He urged the committee to ensure that it unraveled all the illegal actions taken by the Nigerian Army during the election.
He particularly decried the invasion of the home of the Rivers State Education Commissioner, the harassment of his family and his subsequent arrest.
Wike informed the committee that in one of the post-election briefings at Bori Camp, the GOC allegedly wondered why the soldiers failed to kill him (Wike).
Also speaking, Rivers State Education Commissioner, Dr Tamunosisi Gogo-Jaja, outlined the trauma he faced alongside his family during the invasion of his home by the Nigerian Army.
He explained how he was interrogated by the GOC at the 6 Division after his arrest and that upon his release he was driven home by the Rivers State Commander of Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Akin Fakorede.
Chairman of the Nigerian Army Investigative committee on Electoral Violence, Major General Ayibakuro Gagariga, said the committee was established by the Chief of Army Staff to investigate allegations of misconduct against the Nigerian Army.
He noted that the committee would look into cases of alleged interference by the Nigerian Army during the General Election in Rivers State.
“There was the killing of Lt Gumi in Abonnema. Others were also killed during the elections in Rivers State. There is also the allegation on the attempt to assassinate the Rivers State Governor,” he said.
The highpoint of the meeting was the visual presentation of all the locations of Army invasion to the committee members. The governor also presented a pictorial overview of the interference of the Nigerian Army in the electoral process in the state.