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Nigeria army accuses INEC of betrayal over Rivers election saga

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THE six division of the Nigerian Army with its headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, says it feels betrayed by the comments by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the violence that characterised the recent gubernatorial and State assembly elections held in the state.

This was contained in a statement issued by Aminu Iliyasu, a colonel and spokesperson of the army division.

INEC, through its spokesperson, Festus Okoye, had said that collation centres in Rivers State “were invaded by some soldiers and armed gangs resulting in the intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials thereby disrupting the collation process”.

“The fact-finding mission that we sent to Rivers established the fact that the military intervened in some places,” Okoye said during a television interview. “We saw them in INEC office and they agreed that they were at some collation centres on election day.”

However, Okoye added: “We made a determination that the army got involved in the electoral process but whether their involvement in the process was to rig the elections, I am not in a position to make a determination on that.”

Reacting to the remarks and INEC’s subsequent press statement, the army spokesperson, Ilyasu, said the army received INEC’s statement ‘with dismay and a sense of betrayal”.

He said that representatives of the army met with INEC’s fact-finding committee on Tuesday 12 March at the commission’s Headquarters in Port Harcourt and had honest discussions and made a written submission to aid the Committee in its task.

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“Regrettably, none of the Division’s input form any of the findings of INEC as made public. This clearly indicates lack of trust by an institution that the NA sacrifices so much to assist in the course of performing their role,” Ilyasu stated.

He went on to narrate how thugs loyal to the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, attacked the collation centre at Obio-Akpor local government area and shot as well as macheted soldiers, two of whom are still in intensive care unit of the military hospital in Port Harcourt.

According to the army, after attacking the collation centre, the governor’s thugs then carted away all the election materials in the collation centre and kidnapped some INEC officials.

“This was made known to the INEC Fact-Finding Committee but INEC does not see it worth condemning or mention it in its report,” the army stated.

Ilyasu also explained that the army had convened a press conference “with the view to dissociate itself from the unprofessional conduct exhibited by their men attached to Wike and tell the public what disciplinary action the command will take or is already taking”, but the scheduled press conference was twice aborted at the instance of the Nigerian Police.

“To this end, – in the circumstance, – the 6 Division NA as a stakeholder in the 2019 General Elections takes exception to the lopsided and therefore unfair INEC report and [the report] is hereby strongly and totally rejected by the NA,” the statement read.

“The Division is equally disappointed with the attitude exhibited by the Nigerian Police in this regard and hereby request the police leadership to commence full scale investigation of those security aides to Governor Wike that attacked troops at the Obio/Akpor LG Headquarters Collation Center and shot at Capt AA Salami with a view to appropriately sanctioning those found responsible/culpable.

“Until that is done, Headquarters 6 Division NA will have to review all existing joint activities with the Rivers State Police Command.”

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