With the dusts yet to settle in the ill-fated rescheduled Presidential Election held across the country last Saturday, more than 77 political parties in Rivers State have come out to expose the ignoble army brutality visited on Rivers people, commandeered by the General Officer Commanding 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarham.
The political parties, under the aegis of the Rivers State chapter of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in a press briefing held in Port Harcourt on Thursday, described Saturday, 23rd February, 2019 as black, bloodiest and saddest day in the election history of the State as, according to them, the army decided to be overly partisan in breach of their abiding duty to be neutral and provide security or the electoral process.
Rivers IPAC in the statement that was jointly signed by State Chairmen of all 76 political parties and read by its Public Relations Officer, Comrade Kukang Ledum Joseph said the army action in Rivers State was in total defiance to the assurance given by the Acting Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim that the army will not be directly involved in the 2019 General Elections process.
They noted that Governor Nyesom Wike and several other stakeholders repeatedly alerted the nation on the planned partisan involvement of the army in the election process in Rivers State, adding that all these apparently fell into the deaf ears as GOC, Jamil Sarham flagrantly fraternized with the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State to rig, snatch election materials, harass Collation Officers and force them to allocate bogus results to the APC.
According to them, rather than respond to these weighty allegations against the GOC, invectives were poured on Governor Wike and PDP stakeholders, calling them false alarmists crying wolf where there were none.
“But alas, here we are with the disastrous consequences of the failure of the military authorities and the INEX to reprimand and call to order the GOC and his soldiers of destruction that they deployed to Rivers State for unlawful election duties”, the statement read.
It went on, “What on earth can justify the killing of as many as 16 unarmed civilians by the army in a rustic community, which members were barely insisting on their participatory rights and freedoms in the face of the brazen onslaught by APC thugs to scuttle the electoral process”.
The Rivers IPAC further alleged that aside the brutal killing of over 18 innocent civilians including an INEC ad hoc staff and an NYSC member, the soldiers prevented the general elections from holding in Akuku Toru LGA and parts of Asari Toru and Degema LGAs.
“Major General Jamil Sarham’s soldiers also supported APC thugs to snatch away election materials and prevented the elections from holding in the whole of Bonny LGA and parts of Ahoada West and Okrika LGAs”, they said while also lamenting the mayhem visited on Emohua and Ikwerre by the marauding soldiers.
The over 77 political parties said it was obvious that the direct partisan involvement of the army led to the cancellation of elections in six local government areas of the State, wondering the legitimacy of the results eventually turned in and declared by INEC for Rivers State in the face of the wanton killings, snatching of election materials and the other electoral maladies resulting from the elections across the State.
The group expressed fears that by brazenly betraying the public trust, the army can no longer be trusted by the people of Rivers State to be neutral in the electoral process in Rivers State, adding that even the forthcoming Governorship and Assembly elections in Rivers State is also at risk.
According to the Rivers IPAC: “On Thursday, 7th February, 2019, the Acting Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General John Agim briefed the press in Abuja and assured Nigerians that the army will not be directly involved in the 2019 general elections process. According to him:
“…the Armed Forces of Nigeria wishes to re-affirm its neutrality, impartiality and strict adherence to professional code of conduct before, during and after the general election. “Therefore, we would like to reiterate that the Armed Forces of Nigeria will carry out its constitutional duties with zero tolerance to unprofessional conduct. No military personnel are expected to fraternize with any political parties and associations”.
“In the week and days proceeding last week Saturday’s rescheduled elections, the Governor of Rivers State and several other stakeholders repeatedly alerted the nation on the planned partisan involvement of the army in the election process in Rivers State.
“Specifically, it was revealed that the General Officer Commanding the 6 Division of the Nigeria Army, Major General Jamil Sarham was fraternizing with leaders of Rivers State APC to rig, snatch election materials, harass collation officers and force them to allocate bogus results to the APC.
“Despite the wide publicity they attracted, neither the Chief of Army Staff, the Chairman of the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) nor the principal accused, Major General Jamil Sarham reacted to these weighty and very troubling allegations.
“Instead, the Governor of Rivers State and the PDP stakeholders were maligned and regarded as false alarmists crying wolf where there were none but alas, here we are with the disastrous consequences of the failure of the military authorities and the INEC to reprimand and call to order the GOC and his soldiers of destruction that they deployed to Rivers State for unlawful election duties.
“Thus, Saturday 23rd February 2019 will forever remain in the memory of Rivers people as a black and bloody Saturday in the election history of the State simply because the army decided to be overly partisan in breach of their abiding duty to be neutral and provide security for the electoral process.
“What on earth can justify the killing of as many as 16 unarmed civilians by the army in a rustic community, which members were barely insisting on their participatory rights and freedoms in the face of the brazen onslaught by APC thugs to scuttle the electoral process?”.
The Rivers IPAC appealed to President Mohammadu Buhari, Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Yusuf Buratai and the international community to prevail on the army to stay away from election duties in Rivers State and allow the police to perform their constitutional responsibilities for peaceful, free, fair and credible elections in the State
The Nigerian Army 6 Division has consistently denied any wrong doing