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Militarisation of elections: In whose interest?

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AMID the raging seething anger among Nigerians over the involvement of military personnel in the 2019 general election, Sunday Tribune digs into how due process was subverted in some states across the country during the recent polls.

A cardinal pillar of democracy is the rule of law; contempt for the law breeds a gradual descent to chaos. However, the intervention by the judicial arm of government acts as buffer in the event of a seeming conflict. That is exactly what the Supreme Court did on the vexatious issue of military involvement in election duties dating back to 2005.

On different occasions and suits, the apex court had ruled unambiguously that the military had no role to play in the conduct of elections. Its interpretations of the law and consequent decisions on cases bordering on the deployment of soldiers for election duties were icing on the cake on the judgment of the Court of Appeal while adjudicating on election matters.

Of particular importance was in the appeal filed by the then defeated presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, challenging the victory of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005. In dismissing Buhari’s case, the appellant court ruled: “It is appropriate at this juncture to make some observations. I believe the time has come in our learning process to establish the culture of democratic rule in this country to strive to do the right thing, particularly when it comes to dealing with electoral process, which in my view is one of the pillars of democracy. I believe in spite of the non-tolerant nature and behavior of our political class in this country, we should, by all means, try to keep armed personnel of whatever status or nature from being part and parcel of our election processes. The civilian authorities should be left to conduct and carry out fully the electoral processes at all levels.”

Still dissatisfied, Buhari headed for the Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal. The former emphatically declared that the citizens, being “sovereign,” should have the liberty and freedom to elect their leaders.

“The state is obliged to ensure that citizens who are sovereign can exercise their franchise freely, unmolested and undisturbed,” the court asserted.

Voters are also empowered to have unfettered freedom in exercising their franchise under the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). The Act of Parliament outlaws the use of force or violence during elections, a provision, which a number of observers said the deployment of military personnel during 2019 polls tend to undermine. Military top hierarchy has vainly tried to justify the militarisation of the election with the Chief of Army Staff (COS), Lt-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, claiming his men acted within the ambits of the law based on the rules of engagement of the military in operations.

The seamless legal and constitutional issues raised in many quarters, however, necessitated the Senate of the Federal republic of Nigeria, scheduling the matter for general debate this week. It will provide the veritable opportunity for quite a number of members of the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly to narrate their personal experiences, having been among the leading actors on the field during the elections across the country.

However, situation reports from states during the election provide an insight into the extent of military involvement, in spite of its pros and cons.


Rivers literally became a garrison, locked down

While many other states involved in the March 9 presidential and National Assembly elections are concluding their victory celebrations and concentrating on matters of progress and development, Rivers State, the oil and gas capital of the country, is still embroiled in controversies associated with the elections whose process has remained suspended and declared inconclusive.

Though the state is on a familiar turf on this matter, following from reports of massive irregularities and violence that had attended its elections in recent years, one of the reasons for the elections’ quagmire this time is the widespread militarisation of the process, especially in the governorship and state House of Assembly polls.

The sheer number of army personnel on duty during the elections and the partisan role they allegedly played are the major reasons the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not announced the outcome of that exercise yet in the state.

When the military high command, days to the elections, announced that the role of the organisation in the elections was purely to support the security of the process and ensure the protection of lives and property during the exercise, it sounded reassuring and many thought it was going to be so.

The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Colonel Aminu Illyasu, had during a media parley, said the army had not only been trained, but also adequately briefed on the rules of engagement during the elections and that it would discipline any erring officer.

He emphasised the non-partisan role the army was to play, adding that it would only watch from a distance, but be involved in clear cases of breach of the peace and security of the process.

He added that officers and men of the army were strictly prohibited from escorting any politician during the elections.

So, when on the morning of election day, heavily armed soldiers were at various road intersections conducting stop and search of pedestrians and vehicles moving around, it was reassuring that the army was serious about its promise to provide adequate security for the elections.

But down the line, deep into the voting exercise, reports began to filter in of armed soldiers moving around with some politicians, voters, electoral officers and in many cases, carting away voting materials.

In parts of Elele, Ikwerre Local Government Area, journalists were told of a certain chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who was about intimidating agents of other parties.

Reporters were later to intercept soldiers reportedly loyal to the politician at Unit 5, Ward 9, already gathering the voting materials to carry them away and having hot exchange of words with supporters of PDP and other parties. When the soldiers, who came in a white Hilux van saw the journalists, they abandoned their mission and left, with one of them advising them to allow the people to settle their disagreement among themselves.

Some of the places visited by journalists included Unit 17, Ward 3; Unit 8, Ward 3 and Unit 5, Ward 9. The army was also alleged to have stopped voting exercise in Ward 3 Unit 4 Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, as thugs disrupt voting in Ward 3 Unit 1. Same scenario was also reported at Abonnema community.

Armed soldiers and operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) were also alleged to have snatched ballot boxes in the 13 units of Ward 6 Apani, Ikwerre Local Government Area. The Supervising Presiding Officer (SPO), Onyechi Ajuzie, had to escape to avoid abduction by soldiers.

This continued all through Saturday into Sunday when the military totally overtook the INEC headquarters along Port Harcourt – Aba expressway, preventing INEC officials from collating the elections results and eventually forcing them to abandon their office.

The deployment of soldiers was so huge that the INEC office and adjoining areas of GRA and Waterlines junctions were literally under siege by heavily armed and fierce looking soldiers supported by one armoured tank and several armoured personnel carriers (APCs).

The entire stretch from GRA junction, through the office of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) down to Waterlines Bus Stop was taken over by armed security personnel.

At about noon, it was discovered that INEC officials, led by the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Oboh Effanga, expected to commence the announcement of collated results, left his office because of pressure from the security agencies.

Some of the results that had arrived the INEC office were yet to be received by its officials while those that have been received were not announced.

A source inside INEC explained that the officials had to leave the office temporarily because of pressure from the soldiers to accept every election materials the military brought in from the field.

Meanwhile, outside the office, the army personnel refused journalists and party agents access to the INEC office without any explanation. One of the soldiers told members of the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council, who drove out in their bus to get lunch that they would not be allowed to return once they left the premises.

And so it was that later, most journalists who had been part of the collation and announcement of results were barred from entering the office, with only a few whose names were given to the military personnel permitted in.

Expectedly, such heavy militarisation of election would have its effects; and so were several reports of shootings at several places leading to some deaths and injuries. For instance, it was alleged that a lecturer with the Kenule Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic (Kenpoly), Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, who is the outgoing chairman of the school’s Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), was shot.

Also shot were Marvin Lezor Kpea-ue, Raymond Ledogo and several others at the INEC Collation Center in Bori, headquarters of Khana Local Government Area, among many others across the state.

Reacting to the militarisation of the elections, the state governor, Nyesom Wike, after casting his vote on that day, said despite the attempts to manipulate the election in some local government areas, he was sure of victory.

“We are hoping that it will continue to be like this. Sometimes, the voting goes on smoothly, but the main thing is at the collation centres,” he observed.

Wiked declared further: “For now, we are satisfied and confident that we will win this election very well. We are not afraid. We don’t know how many local government areas they can manipulate. But with the reports we are getting, even though they are trying to be funny, we shall win.”

The governor noted that the turnout during the election was affected by the illegal activities of the military.

“The way the military acted discouraged people from turning up. The role of the military is to provide security. But it is unfortunate that they directly participated.  Police have no role in the elections. The military appears to have taken over police duties,” he lamented.

Also, the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) and Coalition of Governorship Candidates in Rivers State condemned the military over the governorship elections.

They, at a press briefing in Port Harcourt, described the development as “the criminal use of the Nigerian Army by the APC to abduct electoral officers and snatch already collated results for the purpose of rigging the elections in favour of the APC candidates.”

IPAC, which claimed that the Rivers State PDP governorship candidate, Wike, had won the election, lamented that “the APC-led soldiers of the Nigerian Army’s invasion of the state collation centre at INEC headquarters in Port Harcourt was captured on camera and broadcast on some electronic media,” saying that the whole world had seen how they planned to bring in cooked results to alter the will of Rivers people.

“We also condemn the military for disrupting the collation of results for the governorship election in Rivers State. We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to take immediate steps to punish all the military personnel involved in the coup against democracy.

“Our position is strengthened by the fact that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) has denied ordering the criminal activities of the Nigerian Army at the Rivers State governorship election collation centre at the INEC headquarters,” it said.

On his part, the chairman of the state Civil Society Organisations, Enefa Georgewill, opined that “our observers reported that the presence of security agencies, especially the army, reduced the activities of armed thugs in the election.”

The organisation and its partners monitored the governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State as INEC accredited observers.

“However, the army was seen supporting members of a particular party against the others. There were equally cases of intimidation of members from the party they were not in support of. For instance, soldiers aided members of their preferred political party to cart away ballot papers and boxes in some local government areas,” it said, adding that soldiers chased observers and members of opposition parties from the collation centers in some of the local government areas.

“Another dangerous trend we noticed,” he added, “was that security operatives attached to the governor forced their way to the collation centre in Obio Akpor. This action disrupted the process of collation at Obio Akpor. While we don’t doubt the possibility of armed thugs wearing military uniform in some cases, it’s impossible for thugs to carry out this action in majority of the cases. Observers equally observed infiltration of INEC staff by a particular political party. We dare to say that 50 per cent of the staff of INEC was members of a particular party. This led to delay of the election in some polling units because members of opposition political parties recognised them.”

“It is our opinion that it will impossible to conduct elections in Rivers State without security agencies, especially the army, because of political thugs and the desperate nature of our politicians. But it is important that the army should be apolitical in the discharge of their duties.”

Also lending its voice to the development, the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers came out to condemn the violence and breach of peace that culminated in many deaths in communities across the state during the elections.

In a statement issued after the election, the council said “we are disappointed by the alleged involvement of the military and SARS officials in the direct process of the 2019 elections, other than assisting the police to keep peace and maintain law and order when officially invited by INEC to do so.

“Our dear state is progressively turned into a theatre of war by some desperate politicians and their military collaborators. The people of Rivers State are being manipulated and humiliated systematically by enemies of the state, especially some elected politicians and government appointees whose desperate attempts to appeal to their pay maters amount to a betrayal of their people.

“As a traditional rulers’ council, we are committed to ensuring that peace reigns in our domains. We, therefore, strongly appeal to our sons not to allow themselves to be used to destroy their people and state. What we have today is a few government appointees using federal apparatus, including men in uniform, to cause chaos and breakdown of law and order.

“Our people who have attempted to resist such illegality have either been arrested or simply dealt with extra-judicially. Our kingdoms and communities have been massively militarized; innocent people have been harassed and intimidated in some cases. We would have temporarily tolerated the intimidating presence of the military if they were there to keep the peace and protect us from political thugs and miscreants. We are sad to note that in many of our kingdoms and communities, the uniformed or military men are actively involved in giving order to politicians and their thugs who were carting away ballot boxes and results sheet.”

The traditional rulers, while also agreeing that there was the possibility of politicians using fake uniform men to perpetrate electoral fraud and violence, however, queried why ‘real’ soldiers would not effect the arrest of the perceived fake ones.

“There are allegations that some of these uniformed personnel were fake soldiers. But the have not arrested any of the so-called fake soldiers involved in these dastardly acts. The army has also come out on African Independent Television (AIT) today (March 11 2019) to state that the people in army uniforms were fake. So, why were they not being arrested, if they were thugs in military uniforms?

“The silence of the peace committee, headed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, is deafening. This is the time for the said peace committee to call all the parties, including the military, who are breaching the peace accord to order. You cannot ask parties to accept the results of elections that are brazenly rigged, manipulated and falsified in an environment of intimidation and violence.

“The last time we checked, the Commander-In-Chief and President of Nigeria has not given any such order, neither has the Chief of Army Staff or Chief of Air Staff ordered the invasion or full participation of the military in the electoral process in our various kingdoms.

“So, who has deployed the military – army and Air Force – in this number? They were even assaulting officials of INEC and taking over their premises when they were not invited INEC. How come the military has taken over collation centres, including the INEC office in Port Harcourt? Why were they fighting with the police to take over the INEC office and results that were coming from local government areas?” the traditional rulers asked, appealing for peace to be allowed to return to the state.


Despite militarisation, violence, vote-buying and security challenges marked Ondo out

Most residents of Ondo state believed that the March 9 House of Assembly election in the state would be peaceful and rancor-free like the presidential and National Assembly chapter of February 23, but many of them were proved wrong. The election recorded a large turnout of voters, but it was not without complaints of violence, vote-buying and alleged snatching of electoral materials and disruptions of voting across the state.

Though the two major political parties traded blames on the issue of vote-buying, it was appalling that it was done openly, in conjunction with security agents who looked the other way while those distributing the cash to the electorate had a field day.

Some political party agents were seen as early as 7:45 a.m. moving from ward to ward, dropping cash meant for each polling unit. Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate in Akure South Constituency 1, Honourable Ebenezer Adeniyan, and some youths apprehended some members of another political party who were distributing money at Ward 8, Adu Memorial Polling Unit in Oke Aro.

Adeniyan accused the ruling APC of distributing money across the units in Akure, disclosing that some unspecified amount of money was seized from the APC agents who were moving around distributing the money.

Apart from this, many other cases of vote-buying and hijacking of ballot boxes and electoral materials were reported during the election in the state.

The opposition PDP in the state, through its chairman, Clement Faboyede, also accused the ruling APC and its supporters of disrupting voting process.

Some voters’ resistance to the incident of vote-buying and stealing of ballot boxes in some areas escalated to violence across the three senatorial districts.

However, the APC chairman in the state, Ade Adetimehin, also accused the PDP in the state of ballot box snatching and vote-buying.

Adetimehin said the election was monitised and characterised by buying of votes, alleging the PDP was behind the acts, while security operatives had challenges in curtailing the illegal activities of the criminals at the polling units.

He said the PDP embarked on vote-buying because of its waning popularity in the state, but stated that the APC would not fold its arms to allow the impunity.

Though security agents were seen across the polling units visited by Sunday Tribune, most of them distanced themselves from the voting centres. Some military were seen stationed at the entrance of major towns and cities, but not at the polling units; and this reportedly allowed hoodlums to operate without any hindrance.

Meanwhile, record has it that no fewer than eight people lost their lives during the House of Assembly election. While two alleged political thugs were shot dead by security operatives in Oba Akoko, in Akoko South West Local Government Area of the state, four other people were killed in Ore, headquarters of Odigbo Local Government Area. A youth corps member serving in the state, Ibrahim Okanlawon, and an INEC official were said to have drowned in Agadagba Obon, in Ese Odo Local Government Area of the state, while several other people were reported injured.

The two hoodlums killed in Oba Akoko and four others were said to have invaded the collation centre in the area, shooting sporadically and snatching the result of the election in the area. But security agents pursued them, had an exchange of gunshots with them and recovered the collated results.

This development was said to have infuriated the hoodlums who regrouped and attacked the only police station in the town and some other properties. This led to the embargo placed on movement by the state government for two days.

In Ore, some supporters of a political party had kicked against the results of the election in the area, saying it was manipulated. This led to the invitation of some security agents. The party supporters were to attack the security operatives and resisted their attempt to leave the place with the results.

Sunday Tribune gathered that four of the protesters were, however, shot and later died during the melee.

The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Femi Joseph, who confirmed the development, however, said three people, including the corps member, were killed during the election, but added that no fewer than 20 people had been arrested by the state police command across the state over different electoral offences.


Condemnation for heavy security deployment

Meanwhile, condemnation has continued trailing the House of Assembly election in the state. The PDP, last Monday, condemned the heavy deployment of security, vote-buying, violence, harassment of party officials and killing of innocent members of the state during the election.

Faboyede, the party chairman, noted that the March 9 election did not represent the will of the electorate in the state. He alleged that the security agencies and officials of INEC were used to rig the election across the state, while political thugs prevented the electorate from exercising their civic duty.

Her equally frowned at the role played by INEC, saying the electoral umpire compromised in the election by taking sides.

“What happened (penultimate) Saturday was simply unacceptable across this state; it was uncivilised and undemocratic. Security agencies failed from being professional, unlike in the presidential and National Assembly polls. (Penultimate) Saturday election was the exact opposite: There were sporadic shooting of guns in the state capital and with all the avalanche of security patrol in Akure City, no arrest was made. What happened in the last election was vote-buying and selling,” he lamented.

He also alleged that the election was heavily monetised by the state government, accusing the state government of spending N2 billion of public fund to win in the exercise.

According to him, some leaders of the ruling APC in the state led thugs to various polling units in the state to disrupt election and write results across the state, leading to the death of some persons. He alleged that the governor’s aides mobilised thugs to rig elections across the state, alleging that security operatives colluded with the state government as thugs prevented people to vote in Akoko South-West and Ondo West local government areas.

“We cannot comprehend why thugs were backed up by security agencies and armed soldiers to snatch ballot boxes. We witnessed open buying and selling of votes. The election was 100 per cent compromised in Ondo State.

“The ruling APC in the state resorted to bloodletting, violence and official high-handedness which shows this administration has no regard for the lives of the people of the state and lawful processes. It is only interested in seizing power by all means,” he said.

Similarly, House of Assembly candidate of the SDP in the election, Adeniyan, described the election as a sham and a dent on the nation’s democracy, saying “it was the worst election I have ever witnessed in my adult life.”

Adeniyan alleged that the election was highly monetised by the ruling party in the state, adding that “the ruling APC conspired with the officials of the INEC and security agencies to engage in open purchase of votes across all the polling units in the constituency.

“The APC had deployed between N300,000 and N500,000 to each polling unit on the eve of the election. In many of the units, the vote-buying was effectively supervised by security agents and in some, security agents participated in the distribution of the money. This is a setback for whatever gains we had made in our electoral process in the last decade.

“In some units, agents of opposition parties that did not bribe security agents were chased out of the polling areas, while voting cubicles were left in the hands of agents of APC to monitor voting pattern of induced voters. That INEC and security agencies cannot curb open vote-buying has simply put the nail on the coffin of democracy in Nigeria. It is unfortunate that the only way to win election in Nigeria today is to buy votes.”

Meanwhile, the political class in Ondo kingdom invaded the state headquarters of the INEC in Akure to register their displeasure over the irregularities, violence and manipulation of the House of Assembly election.

Protesters from four opposition parties that participated in the election, including the PDP, African Democratic Congress (ADC), African Action Congress (AAC) and Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), described the election as exhibition of large scale violence, disturbances and rape of people’s mandate across the kingdom.

Speaking on behalf of the protesters, former Commissioner for Information in the state and a chieftain of PDP, Chief Segun Adegoke, asked for the cancelation of the election, calling for rerun in all the three state constituencies of Ondo East and West local government areas of the state.

Adegoke, who cited intimidation, bribing of the electorate and acts of brigandage during the election, said the electorate were denied the opportunity to choose who should represent them in the Assembly, while hoodlums chased out voters from the polling units.

In a petition addressed to the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), the four political parties alleged an unholy alliance between some parties and the state governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, saying the governor connived with Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) to manipulate the election results in the two local government areas in favour of candidates of APC and ZLP.

They added that the parties would challenge the outcome of the election in the law court, if INEC refused to cancel the results.

“The electorate, particularly the working class, the peasant, the labourers and the domestic servants who struggle to eke out a living, lined up quietly as commanded by INEC to cast their votes. It is disheartening that young thugs, armed with guns, knives and all sorts of dangerous weapons scared away the electorate from polling units.

“The people were thoroughly intimidated and harassed. Some of the agents were abducted. Many were physically attacked and others chased away. It was an eye-sore to behold young men who are regarded as leaders of tomorrow brandishing guns and wielding cutlasses menacingly,” they said.

But the APC in the state described the PDP as a bad loser, saying the election was peaceful and fair, except in a few local government areas of the Northern and Central senatorial districts.

The APC Publicity Secretary, Alex Kalejaye, said there was no iota of truth in the allegation against the party, adding that the party would not partake in act of vote-buying or using thugs to win an election.

Kalejaye said “the APC went into the election better coordinated, blocking the existed loopholes and further educated the electorate. The allegation of vote-buying is baseless. It is the usual way of the PDP crying wolf where none exists.

“The rigging machinery of the PDP was mostly frustrated, save in places like Idanre Local Government Area, where they employed the connections of the wife of a top military officer to intimidate the people and rigged openly.

“The APC leaders are currently studying the situation and will hopefully take legal action against all the illegality perpetrated by the PDP during the election. The election in the state was largely and reasonably fair and peaceful, except in a few local government areas.”

He also alleged that the election in Idanre was heavily militarised, saying “the PDP used its influence to turn the peaceful town to a theatre of war. The entire place was militarised. The result of that was that members of APC were maimed, brutalised, harassed, intimidated and scared away from performing their legitimate assignment.

“We call on the military command to investigate the roles played by its officers before and during the House of Assembly election in Idanre and ensure appropriate sanction.”

Also, the chairman of ZLP in the state, Wale Gbakinro, said the allegation was an attempt to discredit the process of the election that produced the candidate of ZLP as winner in the contest.

He said “we wish to state categorically that our great party, the ZLP, was in no way connected to the said allegations being maliciously peddled around in the media. We are a peace-loving political party that was founded on social democratic ethos. This has been our watchword and the interest of the greatest number of the people is our priority at all times.

“It is also important to let the public know that the electorate were seen in all wards, voting freely for candidates of their choice. It is, therefore, blatant falsehood that some individuals who have been known to be professional political merchants and troublemakers in the kingdom have decided yet again to use this as a weapon to blackmail our party and cause unwarranted disturbance in Ondo kingdom.

“We advise them to stop the mischievous tendencies and approach the court of competent jurisdiction to seek legal redress, if they genuinely have any case. Our party is focused on delivering on our campaign promises and our goal is continue to raise Ondo State to an enviable height as we have always done.”


PDP, APC differ on Sokoto inconclusive election

The general election in Sokoto State may have come and gone, but for the supplementary aspect in some polling units that cut across 22 local government areas out of 23 in the state already scheduled for March 23.

The elections in Sokoto State were generally peaceful with the exception of some skirmishes that led to the cancellation of votes in the affected polling units.

The presence of the Nigerian military to complement the efforts of the police and other security agencies was said to have gone a long way in the conduct of the elections.

With regard to the presence of the military, our correspondent who monitored the elections noticed the level of professionalism displayed by the military men.

In all the polling units visited, there was no presence of the military men. Their involvement was more noticeable along the roads where they mounted roadblocks to control movement of vehicles.

In Sokoto, the army alongside other sister security agencies, worked to maintain peace both on the day of presidential poll and that of governorship election.

However, what is more noticeable was the heavy presence of the military in most of the local government areas close to the state capital, while in villages like Bafarawa, Tabbani, Kebbe, Goronyo and some other places, they were not available to attend to some urgent issues.

Indeed, the police had the bitter experience among the security agencies on Friday, March 8, a day before the gubernatorial and House of Assembly election.

A group of suspected bandits had laid ambush for the police on their way to Isa Local Government Area, a journey of about 180 kilometres from Sokoto town, and in the process killed two police officers, Abubakar Maisaje and Usman Ibrahim, an

Meanwhile, while the ruling party in the state has spoken against INEC’s decision to declare the last elections inconclusive, laying claim to having been in the lead in the counted valid votes with a margin of 3,413.

While reacting to the INEC decision, the state governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, vowed to challenge the unpopular decision of the electoral body in a court of law.

He called on the INEC to rescind its decision and announce him as the winner of the election in the state, saying failure to do so would result in a legal matter.

The governor, however, disclosed the readiness of his party to participate in the rerun election, irrespective of the court case.

The opposition APC, on its part, agreed with the decision of INEC not to announce a winner, while calling for a rerun in some polling units.

The party, however, accused both the security agencies and the electoral body of working in the interest of the PDP in the state. In a statement signed by the coordinator of the presidential support committee of the APC in the State, Abdulkadir  Waziri, the party accused the security agencies in the state and the INEC officials of colluding with PDP to defraud APC.

“Supporters of the PDP were put on the line first before APC supporters and this was aided by the security agents. In rural areas, there was no presence of security agents at the polling centres and openly, the election officials allowed the exercise to go the way of PDP.

“Under the watch of security agents deployed to polling centres, ballot boxes were snatched and destroyed, leading to the cancellation of elections in those centres,” he alleged.


Benue witnessed ‘civil’ military men

The governorship and state Assembly elections have gone, but not without leaving memories for the electorate; memories no time or circumstance can obliterate from Benue people in a short time to come.

The ruling PDP in the state had raised the alarm that the opposition APC was planning to militarise the state ahead of the governorship and state House of Assembly election, a fear the opposition APC in the state confirmed to be true when it stressed that the call for military’s involvement in the election was to safeguard the lives of the electorate as well as their votes. Few days to the governorship and Assembly elections, tension had become heightened over the impending militarisation of the state. However, only a handful of soldiers were seen deployed in strategic areas in the state during the election. For instance, Makurdi, the state capital, witnessed the presence of military men at some polling units.

“The soldiers,” according to an electorate who simply identified herself as Theresa at the North Bank area of the state capital, “were civil in their approach to the electorate. They stayed few metres away from the polling units. Though armed, they did not molest anyone. They remained in that position till the end of the election.

“Their presence initially scared some of us, but we were encouraged with the manner they conducted themselves. They were watching from the distance. I think their presence also helped a lot to scare away hoodlums who might have wanted to cause chaos. I don’t think Benue witnessed any military violence during the governorship election.”

Similarly, a staunch member of the PDP in the state, Comrade Joseph Shimaor, told our reporter during the week that the military personnel deployed in his area in Kwande Local Government Area for the elections did not terrorise voters or interfere with the voting process.

Shimaor, who is the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, admitted that there was heavy presence of army, but noted that those army personnel did not interfere or harass any voter.

While applauding the military for not interfering in the governorship election, Shimaor expressed the belief that soldiers should not be seen anywhere at elections period.

“Ordinarily, democracy is about civility, except we think otherwise. There is no basis for sending the military to go and interfere with the contest, if we know that we are living according to democratic tenets.

“We all know that elections are conducted every four years and everybody should go and canvas for votes based on his or her popularity. So, you are deploying the soldiers for what? Elections are between those given mandate and those seeking for mandate and those given mandate are the majority, while those seeking for mandate are the minority. So, who is threatening who?

“Ordinarily, I see no reason why soldiers should be seen outside their barracks and stationed very closed to where elections are held. Therefore, the military should not interfere with our own affairs. They should go and concentrate on their constitutional duty and leave us alone,” he observed.

Another political leader from Konshisha Local Government Area of the state, Thomas Anajav, said he didn’t witness the presence of military men in his council or ward, adding that he was told that army were deployed to urban and semi-urban areas in the state during the poll to provide support to the police in case of electoral violence.

Anajav said the military should be deployed during elections, but that they shouldn’t be stationed around voting centres, adding that they could “engage in stop and search to forestall any crisis.”

He maintained that the present of soldiers stationed not too far from polling points would prevent activities of thugs and ballot materials snatchings, while, however, expressing fear over possibility of interference with voting process.


Security, INEC, govt vigilante connived to steal our mandate –Zamfara APGA

In zamfara State, the last election was an experience for the electorate, security operatives, observers and contestants.

Investigation by Sunday Tribune showed that on the eve of the election day, security personnel were deployed in all nooks and cranny of the state.

On the election day, military men were stationed in almost all the strategic places across the 14 local government areas, major roundabouts in Gusau, the state capital, and checkpoints were heavily manned by soldiers with intimidating appearance.

Investigation showed that in about six local government areas, namely Gusau, Bungudu, Maru, Maradun, Talata Mafara and Bakura those on essential duties, including journalists, were thoroughly checked by the military men on duty before being allowed to enter town, particularly in places where collation centres were located by INEC.

According to the Coalition of Accredited Domestic Observers who monitored Zamfara State governorship and House of Assembly elections, the exercise was free and fair, a development that made them to commend all stakeholders for peaceful conduct of the exercise.

In a statement jointly signed by team leaders of the observers, namely National Committee of Patriots (NCOP), Dr Muhammad Hashidu; Dr. Isaac Onyike of Center for Strategic Conflict Management; Dr. Khalifa Aljameel of the Northern Patriotic Front; Folashade Asaolu of Center for Grassroots Development and Crime Prevention and Miss. Sakina Muktar of Patriotic Women Foundation, they described the conduct of the exercise as worthy of commendation.

However, there have been protests from some other quarters over the conduct of the election. In a protest against the exercise, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) rejected the results of the elections, vowing to challenge the outcome at the tribunal.

Governorship candidate of APGA, Dr. Sani Abdullahi Shinkafi, disclosed this in a statement. According to him, the security agents, official of INEC and state government vigilante group stole the mandate given to APGA in the state.

“Our party agents told us how security agents that comprises military and mobile policemen overpowered them in some areas to manipulate, allocate and alter the results in connivance with INEC officials, to turn the victory of our party in favour of the APC.

“The results were not the true reflection of the votes cast. We have decided to challenge the results of the election at the Election Petition Tribunal. We will approach the tribunal on the basis of the irregularities notice during the elections as well as seek disqualification of the APC governorship and House of Assembly candidates,” he said.

He added that the election was marred with other irregularities like votes-buying, multiple voting, multi-ballot thumb-printing, ballot box snatching and refusal of presiding officers across the 2,516 polling units to write results as announced and declared.

He said ward collation centres were deserted by the ward collation/returning officers of INEC as security agents were aiding and abetting INEC officials in rigging the election in favour of the APC, while the opposition parties were left helpless in the whole exercise.

He added that there was also the incidence of the manipulation of the results in eight local government areas which were won by the APGA governorship candidate with wide margin but which were turned around in favour of the APC governorship candidate.

“We condemn the militarisation of the electoral process in various parts of the state. A particular example is the use of military, mobile police and the vigilante group in Talata Mafara, Shinkafi, Gusau, Maru, Maradun, Tsafe and Kaura Namoda. Mobile police were also used to alter the result of our House of Assembly candidate in Talata Mafara. He was whisked away by the security agents attached to the Governor, Abdulazeez Yari.

“How do they expect the people of Zamfara State to be convinced that the APC could get more votes in the governorship election than it got in the last presidential election,” he queried.

But the governor-elect, Muktar Shehu Idris, while addressing journalists in Gusau, called on other contestants to accept the outcome of the election in good faith and join hands with him to move the state forward.


‘In Kano, soldiers behaved like they were at war front’

The governorship election witnessed heavy presence of uniform men and women. To many residents of Kano, this was not unexpected. The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Wakili Mohammed, had, a few days before the election, told journalists, through the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Haruna Abdullahi, a deputy superintendent of police, disclosed that no fewer than 20,000 policemen would be deployed to poling units and other strategic locations to provide during the poll.

Beside the police, other uniform personnel, including the military, especially army, air force, immigration officials, civil defence corps operatives and others, complemented the efforts of the police in the 44 local government areas of the state.

Many residents of Kano State would not condemn the presence of large number of law enforcement agents during and after the election. The majority of those who spoke with Sunday Tribune over the matter said the state was generally believed to be volatile.

According to a community leader, Alhaji Garko Ibrahim, a minor issue, if not well managed, could degenerate into an uncontrollable crisis in Kano State.

He said it should be remembered that the governorship and Assembly elections could be referred to as a local issue in which the who-is-who in the state would engage one another, a competition that could give rise crisis.

Some other analysts noted that Nigerians usually had little respect for the police, but that with the presence of military men whoever wanted to misbehave would have a rethink as they would know that the military would be more ruthless.

Some said as a result of this belief, the presence of military men across the state also gave voters assurance of their safety.

A public discourse analyst, Malam Muhammed Yisa, noted that “l see nothing bad in the fact that the military was deployed in the election. The police lack enough manpower to maintain adequate and necessary security needed during elections.

Malam Yisa, buttressing his point on the support for the presence of military during and after election, said further “look at what happened at Ganma collation ward in Nassarawa Local Government Area of the state when the state deputy governor, Dr. Nasiru Gawuna; and Commissioner for Local Government, Alhaji Duke Garo; allegedly invaded the collation centre and something unusual occurred. If not for the presence of military personnel, it would have led to loss of innocent lives.”

However, some other residents did not feel comfortable with the deployed soldiers. Another resident, Alhaji Baba Yinusa, while commenting on the presence of the soldiers around the state, stated that the way most of the military men behave during the exercise was “like they were at the war front.”

“I see no reason why military would be deployed during election. Their official duty is to protect our territorial integrity. Take it or leave it, they caused a lot of fear in many voters. They were armed to teeth, as if they were going into Sambisa forest. Many people were scared to come out and exercise their civic responsibility.

“If the military should be drafted to maintain peace and order during elections, it indicates that they have taken over the police responsibility and this does not augur well for polity,” he said.

Mr Umar Usman Danbaki, a private legal practitioner, based in the state, said “one cannot say categorically whether or not deployment of soldiers for elections is good. We must think about the rationale behind the deployment. If the essence of deploying military during election is to provide security, protect lives and property of the electorates, it is in the right direction.”

He, however, added that if it was aimed at intimidating the electorate or to give undue advantage to candidate of a political party, it would be termed wrong and against the spirit of law.

“If one reads the Electoral Act, it states that nobody should carry weapons within certain radius of the poling unit or the vicinity where election is taking place. However, it also states that a person carrying weapons as a security agent who is there purposely to provide security, not to intimidate and assigned to that particular place to provide security can be there. Otherwise, it is forbidding and prohibited by law for any security officer to carry weapons, roam about to intimidate the electorate or partake in any action of violence or snatching of ballot boxes,” he explained.

The post Militarisation of elections: In whose interest? appeared first on Tribune Online.

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