The alleged killing and mass arrest by soldiers in Tai, Ogoni, Gokhna-Ogoni LGA of Rivers State were false. It is true that soldiers of 6 Division Nigerian Army provided security during the Rivers State Legislative Re-run Election that was conducted today. In addition, the allegations made by some respected politicians regarding deep involvement of soldiers during the elections were aimed at tarnishing the positive image of the Army.
These people allegedly accused soldiers of ballot box snatching, illegal escorts of some politicians, arrest and detention of voters during the general conduct of the elections. The weighty nature of these allegations could cause members of the public to view soldiers negatively, hence the need to adequately inform the general public on the true perspective. The public thus need to consider them as mere farce to garner public sympathy.
The 6 Division, Nigerian Army remained apolitical in the conduct of the election. Its soldiers provided perimeter defence to ward off hoodlums and miscreants. Nigerian Army troops were in no way involved in any form of ballot box snatching, neither were they involved in the escort of politicians as alleged.
They acted swiftly in response to security breaches in order to enforce the law, provide aid to the Nigeria Police and other security agencies especially in areas like Abonema, Etche, Gokhana, Ikwere, Eleme, Tai, Khana and Omoku amongst others. Susceptibility of mentioned areas warranted providing security for the electoral officials, voters, international and local observers, in conjunction with other security agencies by soldiers for a peaceful election to thrive in the environment.
These areas were rift with armed men that engaged security personnel. In Gokhana, armed hoodlums engaged the soldiers providing outer perimeter defence for the electorates. In Abonema at 0730 hours today, there were 3 explosions that created bedlam. Subsequently, 11 NYSC members were abducted along with electoral materials. However, 10 of them were rescued 2 hrs later by the soldiers while one was rescued about 8hrs later.
At Emouha, Mr Oblewaremu abducted 5 NYSC members with election materials in a Siena bus. The corps members were rescued while the suspect was handed over to the Police. Several shooting were recorded in some communities such as Bodo, the home town of the secretary to the State Government, B-dere and Mogho in Gokhana LGA, including snatching of ballot boxes. The most brutal incidence occurred at Ujju Community near Omoku in Onelga where police patrol team was ambushed. In the ambush, 10 policemen scampered into the bush.
The Mobile Police organized a rescue mission. Regrettably, the team discovered that DSP Alkali Mohammed of Mobile Police Unit 48 was beheaded along with his orderly. The patrol vehicle was taken away with weapons, 3 policemen escaped while 5 were missing in action. This is the same area where soldiers of 34 Brigade were ambushed on 20 November 2016 where a soldier was killed. Also on 21 November 2016, 4 personnel of NSCDC were killed and their weapons carted away.
These attacks are reasonable evidence of violations of breach of law and order which portray the area as a flash point. Despite these barbarism, soldiers acted with civility and professionally guaranteeing peaceful election.
Nigerian Army as a respected institution with constitutional responsibility to safeguard lives and property, could not watch miscreants and hoodlums abducting, maiming and killing innocent citizens especially in senseless attacks on uniform personnel.
The Rivers State Re-Run Election was adjudged credible, free, fair and peaceful in many parts of the State. Accusations of soldiers partisanship therefore was sham and phony. The Division would continue to maintain apolitical posture in discharge of its roles to ensure provision of adequate security in Rivers State.
Maj.-Gen. Kasimu Abdulkarim
General Officer Commanding (GOC),