PRESIDENTIAL candidate of the Africa Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, has accused the Nigerian military of shooting down a drone used by members of his party to monitor elections in Ondo State on Saturday. The drone is still in the custody of the soldiers.
Sowore, who cast his vote earlier in Ese Odo Local Government Area, said about four shots were fired at the aircraft in his hometown by soldiers who emerged unexpectedly.
“About four soldiers came from nowhere and started shooting at the drone and when we got the drone out of harm’s way, they traced the drone to our car and tried to arrest the drone operator after having forcefully collected the drone,” he narrated to SaharaTV.
“They are still in possession of our drone, making it difficult for us to monitor the most difficult part of our area. They claimed it is an order from above to shoot down the drone. When we asked where the order came from, they couldn’t tell us who, they just kept going back and forth. At a point, they said they have orders to ask me to come with them and I said I am not going anywhere, that they had to show an arrest warrant. And they said no, it was not an arrest; but they said they wanted to arrest the drone operator. I told them it is not possible.
The presidential candidate said no law was violated by the drone operators. He added that the soldiers themselves later agreed to this, but they insisted they have orders to take the drone to the police station.
“We said since no offence was committed. It is my personal property and I am using it to ensure Nigeria gets a free and fair election. And they admitted that it served the purpose because immediately they saw the drone, people who were trying to make trouble in that particular vicinity ran into the bush,” he said.
“In fact, what they are afraid of right now is the fact that the drone caught them shooting at it. That’s their major worry; so that’s not our problem because they ought not to have been shooting indiscriminately.
“I told them they have no business coming near a polling unit, and the drone was specifically used to monitor polling units: four of them in my vicinity. Police officers who were at the polling units saw the drone and they didn’t have any problem with it until the soldiers came and started shooting.”
The ICIR has observed that AAC was not the only organisation that deployed drones in monitoring general elections on Saturday. Media organisations, such as Channels TV, also used a drone to film voting processes.
However, in May 2016, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) announced a ban on launching Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RUA) or Unmannsed Aerial Vehicles (UAV), otherwise known as drones, without prior licensing from the NCAA and Office of the National Security Adviser.
It was argued then that the deployment of drones with security clearance has led to “predictable safety concerns and security threats.” Babagana Monguno, the National Security Adviser (NSA), reiterated the regulation in October, at the General Security Appraisal Committee Meeting at the Office of NSA in Abuja.