The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came down hard on the Nigerian Army over the manner its men intervened in the March 9 governorship/state assembly elections in Rivers State.INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in a statement in Abuja Friday night, said that INEC remains committed to completion of the collation process where results of the elections have been announced.
Okoye regretted that “collation centres were invaded by some soldiers and armed gangs resulting in the intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials, thereby disrupting the collation process,” adding that the commission will “engage with key stakeholders in Rivers State with a view to ensuring a smooth and peaceful completion of the process.”
The national commissioner, who said results from 17 of the 23 local councils in the state were in its custody, added that the commission at its meeting on Friday, considered the report of the Fact-Finding Committee set up to assess the situation in the state.
The commission had on March 10 suspended all electoral processes in Rivers State having determined that there was widespread disruption of collation of results of the elections conducted in the state on March 9.MEANWHILE, mixed reactions have trailed the setting up of a nine-member committee to investigate all allegations of misconduct against its personnel during the last general elections by the Nigerian Army, with many already expressing loss of confidence in it.
In his reaction, the Executive Director, We the People, Ken Henshaw described it as a charade because the Nigerian Army has already taken a position by claiming that those who disrupted collation were thugs in military uniform.Henshaw, who was an observer during the elections in the state said the army decided to set up the committee following the damning indictment slammed on it by INEC for the unprofessional role its personnel played.
“Nothing will come out of this because the Nigerian Army has taken a position in this matter already by claiming that thugs in military uniform disrupted the election. So, they mean thugs drove fake tanks, fake armoured personnel carriers and were armed with AK47 all over the state, yet nobody was arrested.”
But a retired director of State Security Service, Dr. Toyin Akanle has expressed serious concern about the composition of the committee saying the army should have considered other segments of the society in the composition of the committee.According to him, the army should have taken into cognizance, the mood in the society and ensure that people have confidence in the committee, and accept the outcome of their reports.
“They military needs to get to the root of this issue, if not, before they know it, the confidence of the people in the military would be completely eroded. This is because for the people to see people in military uniforms snatching ballot boxes and intimidating even INEC officials, it is not the best and I don’t want to believe that they are members of the armed forces, but if they are, it is very unfortunate
“These things happened before the military, so why did they fail to do anything about it? Basically these are offences against the electoral process and if they were so deployed then they have taken part in the offences.”“The army should have even incorporated some of the observers in the committee as constituting the committee with own personnel may not speak well because dogs do not eat dogs. It is not that I don’t have confidence in them, but everybody would be trying to free himself of blame.
“That is why I will suggest that they take from other segments like the Senate, and House Committee on the Military should have been part of the committee. Even the media and the people from the affected communities,” Akanle said.Security analyst Senator Iruegbu is of the view that setting up a committee is the first step in trying to redeem the image of the military.
According to him: “Why this is important especially for the current leadership of the army is because it took decisive steps after the 2015 elections to rid the service of personnel alleged to have interfered with the elections.“At the end, about 38 senior officers among whom were some of the finest servicemen were retired under the guise that some of them aided the then ruling party PDP to rig elections.
“So it begs the question why the army that didn’t blink to retire 38 of officers because of alleged election interference in 2015 should be caught in the same web of allegations four years down the line. That is why the investigation is necessary.” Adeola Araoye, a retired anti-bomb police officer said the committee was a welcome development, as it would reveal the alleged misconducts committed. If they are found guilty, they should be punished in order to serve as a deterrent to others.
But a political analyst, Comrade Ema Jimo doubts the committee’s ability to sort out culpable soldiers. According to him, the process leading to the involvement of the army was faulty as it is out of place for the military to get involved in elections. However, the Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, Felix Obuah, has lauded army authorities for the committee to probe the allegations of misconduct, including the assassination attempt on Governor Nyesom Wike by soldiers.
“We wish to assure the Chief of Army Staff that the PDP will appear, present and prove before the committee with facts and evidence, the atrocities committed by his soldiers against the electoral process and the people of Rivers State before, during and after the 2019 general elections.
“In the same vein, we wish to call on the acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed Adamu to institute a similar panel to probe the brazen involvement of the Rivers State Commander of F-SARS, Mr. Akin Fakorode and his gang of police operatives in the organised invasion of polling units, collation centres, abduction of electoral officers and the shooting and killing of innocent persons during the general elections at Khana, Gokana, Ikwerre, Eleme, Tai, Oyigbo and Ogu/Bolo local councils,” he said.