Wike blast Army over poll interference

The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has declared that the negative roles played by the Nigerian Army during the 2019 general election was the worst in the history of the country, saying that the Nigerian Army’s political interference in the state was the most unfortunate infraction in the nation’s democratic experience.

Wike formally requested for the redeployment of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarham for deliberately subverting the general election in Rivers State.

The governor spoke, last Friday, when he granted audience to the Nigerian Army Committee on Electoral Violence during the 2019 polls at the Government House, Port Harcourt.

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 interference 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 Sarham. He cannot fight crime. Leaving the GOC here will be creating more crisis. He is here to fight crime and not to play politics. If soldiers fight crime, the way they intervened in last election, there will be no kidnapper anywhere”.

He said that elections took place across Rivers State in the polling units, adding that aside Abua/Odual Local Government Area, Rivers people voted.

The governor regretted that the challenge came during the collation, when operatives of the Nigerian Army invaded collation centres to cart away Form EC8C for the Governorship Election and Form EC8B1 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, arrest the electoral officer, returning officer and mercilessly beat up the PDP agents. They carted away Form EC8C for the Governorship election and Form EC8B for the House of Assembly elections”, Wike told the Army Investigative Committee.

Wike took time to enumerate the areas where the Nigerian Army unleashed violence and deaths on Rivers people, and also listed the names of Army personnel who led the operations.

The governor regretted that the Nigerian Army was relegated beyond comprehension as 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 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 a sitting governor, he has no soldiers attached to him, but ordinary opposition leaders have several soldiers attached to them for illegal activities during the elections.

Wike said the committee should ensure that it unravels all the illegal actions taken by the Nigerian Army during the elections.

He particularly decried the invasion of the home of the Rivers State Education Commissioner, Dr Tamunosis Gogo-Jaja, 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 wondered why the soldiers failed to kill him.

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.

The commissioner shocked the committee when he explained that upon his release, he was driven home by the Rivers State Commander of Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS), ACP Akin Fakorede.

In his response, the 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, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, 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.

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.

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