By Onome Oghenetega
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has called on the Federal Government to thoroughly investigate the role played by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the military, politicians among others in the crisis that led to the suspension of collation of results in the Rivers State governorship election.
The group, in a statement on Friday signed by its National Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, also charged INEC to round off the collation of governorship results in Rivers and declare the winner, noting that such will ease tension in the oil-rich state.
PANDEF particularly lamented the military’s onslaught on some individuals including Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, HRM Ateke Tom, Traditional Ruler of Okochiri – Okrika its bid to “swing the results of the election to a predetermined candidate.”
While condemning the action of the armed forces, as well as the Police, which it pegged as “very dangerous for democracy”, PANDEF described the just concluded polls as a “declaration of war” in some states.
It said, “Appeal to the Federal Government to raise a full-scale investigation into all reports of electoral infractions, including the military, INEC Officials, politicians and every other person. There must be NO sacred cows.
“Appeal to the Federal Government to de-militarize the Niger Delta, so as to enable every citizen goes about his/her lawful endeavors.”
It also stressed on the alleged killings, militarization, intimidation and electoral thuggery heightened during the March 9 elections.
It should be noted that Nigeria’s Chief of Staff, had severally denied any entanglement in the election exercise.
Below is the full statement:
DANGER SIGNALS Loom:
(1). The 2019 general elections held on February 23 and March 9, 2019, ordinarily should have been conducted under a free and fair atmosphere has become somewhat, ‘ declaration of war’ in some States. This not a cheering phenomenon that any one should pride in.
(2). The reported killings, militarization, intimidation, electoral gangsterism and the attendant security situation in some states in the Niger Delta, particularly, in Bayelsa and Rivers States, has become a source of worry. The Abonnema killings in Rivers State, reportedly orchestrated and perpetrated by the military and political thugs, apparently working on the influence of certain politicians with nefarious tendencies, during the Presidential election held on February 23, 2019, is a classical example of how certain desperate politicians and soldiers could instigate mayhem on innocent and defenceless citizens.
(2). It must be noted with every sense of responsibility the dastardly act of militarization, intimidation, killings, electoral gangsterism and brinkmanship, during this period, and particularly heightened during the governorship and House of Assembly polls on March 9, 2019, as was seen in the case of Rivers State, is not one anybody should pride himself about.
(3). The show of brigandage allegedly demonstrated in Rivers State, by the Army, the Air Force, the Police and other paramilitary personnel by invading the Independent National Electoral Commision (INEC) Office in Port Harcourt, in a bid to arm-twist and intimidate the INEC Officials in a bid to swing the results of the election to a predetermined candidate, is very dangerous for democracy.
(4). The action by the military, is condemnable, and should be condemned by every lover of the Nigeria project. The fact that the Army issued a denial of their involvement in the shameful act is not enough to completely exonerate them.
(5). In fact, the more the denials from the Military, the more their professionalism, rules of engagement, efficiency and neutrality becomes foggy and doubtful. Is the military ‘crying’ that bloody civilians’ have taken over their duties?
(6). If the Theory of neutrality being canvassed by the military is anything to go by, how come the harassment of innocent Niger Deltans in the likes of Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, HRM Ateke Tom, Traditional Ruler of Okochiri – Okrika and a host of others?. Why has the Army been so involved and entangled with election matters that they are now being out-smarted by so-called civilians-in-uniform?
(7). It must be placed on record, and the Federal Government must be reminded that, the Army, statutorily, has NO business with election duties, and so should NOT have been so deployed, in the first place. This is a matter that has been conveniently laid to rest by the Court of Appeal, in 2015.
Issues of internal security and enforcement of Law and Order are within the operational domain of the police.
(8). PANDEF wishes to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to note;
(i). that the deployment of the military for election duties, in defiance of a subsisting judgment of the Court of Appeal, has caused untold harassment, killings, maimings, intimidation, voter apathy in the Niger Delta.
(ii). that, the military’s defence of atrocities so reported against them were allegedly carried out by suspected thugs in military uniforms, has introduced yet another dimension of confusion and security challenge foisted on the region.
(iii). that it is quite unthinkable and condemnable that, the Niger Delta that produces the wealth that sustains this nation should be turned to war theatre, where scores of our defenceless citizens were either killed, maimed, intimidated, harassed and detained, by the military and, in the name of an election.
(9). PANDEF therefore:
(i). Urge the INEC to bring to conclusion the process of collation of the Rivers State Governorship Election Results and the winner declared, so as to douse the political tension in the State.
(ii). Appeal to the Federal Government to raise a full-scale investigation into all reports of electoral infractions, including the military, INEC Officials, politicians and every other person. There must be NO sacred cows.
(iii). Appeal to the Federal Government to de-militarize the Niger Delta, so as to enable every citizen go about his/her lawful endeavors.
Dr. Alfred MULADE.
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