CLEEN Foundation Calls for Review of Military Involvement in Conduct of Elections as Re-run Elections Turn Violent in Nigeria’s Rivers State
CLEEN Foundation is calling for a review of the role of the military during elections, insisting on proper training of security officials deployed for election duties on their duties in election security management. It has also called on the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to investigate the roles of the military during the Rivers state rerun election in addition to the Inspector General of Police urgently launching an investigation into the conduct of officers of the Nigeria Police Force during the re-run election and bring those found guilty of professional misconduct to book;
“We call on the Inspector General of Police to investigate all cases of voter harassments and intimidation during the elections, especially the alleged beheading of DSP Alkali Mohammed and his Orderly during an ambush at Omoku, Onelga LGA as well as the shooting to death of Mr. Mbari John MeeBari, CLEEN Foundation demanded in a post-election assessment issued yesterday.
CLEEN Foundation which said it undertook a field work ahead of the re-run election through the deployment of the Electoral Violence Mitigation Tool to the twenty three Local Government Areas rated the rerun polls to have been characterized and marred by irregularities, breach of the code of conduct and rules of engagement by the security forces/agencies, overt bias by electoral managers.
The Foundation which is the first to issue a statement on the election said in the post election statement that there was particularly late arrival of electoral material in several local government areas, wards and polling stations across the State, listing hijacking of electoral materials by security forces, particularly the Army and officers of SARS at gunpoint, the harassment and restriction of journalists by security agents and party officials from some polling units and collation centres, overt and covert support for one of the political parties during the poll, the failure of the electoral umpire and security agents to maintain neutrality and impartiality towards political parties.
The Foundation’s assessment has not been corroborated by any other independent players in the conduct of the election, acts of violence signposting anomie have been reported to have characterised the re-run elections in Rivers State, South – South Nigeria at the weekend. The highlight of the acts of violence so far is the beheading of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, Alkali Mohammed along with his orderly in one of the communities where a police patrol team was reportedly ambushed. The violence has pitched the military against its critics on grounds of partisan involvement.
Nyeson Wike, the governor of Rivers State argued broadly Sunday that “when the security is apolitical, you have free and fair election. But when the security descends into the arena, the entire process is compromised”. He was implying a deliberate use of the military against the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP), his own platform.
In apparent response to this claim, Major-General Kasimu Abdulkarim, the General Officer Commanding the 6th Division of the Nigerian Army disputes the claims of the critics of the military, saying it is because the military prevented the critics from subverting electoral processes. No deviation from the rules of engagement occurred in the military involvement with the process, said the GOC who cited the beheading of the police officer and the hijacking of a police patrol vehicle as evidence of excesses the military involvement curtailed.
Rivers State has been flooded with police and army for the election which has turned out to be a battle between two political personalities from the area – the governor and Rotimi Amaechi, his predecessor and Minister for Transport. So, the re-run was a typical Home versus Away electoral football contest in which the more powerful of the two would try to manipulate security forces. What seems to make the Rivers State very frightening is the brazenness of beheading a senior police officer along with his Orderly in broad day light at the same point where, according to the GOC, for instance, a soldier and four staff of the National Security and Civil Defence have been killed on November 20th, 2016.
Don’t these signs suggest what might happen in nationwide elections in 2019?