INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu
A group of Observers in the 2019 general elections under the auspices of Committee of Observers has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to take responsibility for its failings in the conduct of elections rather than making vein attempts to tarnish the image of the Nigerian Army.
INEC, through its spokesperson, Festus Okoye, had alleged 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.
But, the National coordinator of the CSOs, Prince Richard I. Rowland, while addressing a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, described as ridiculous and uncharitable comments credited to the electoral body arguing that except for the military presence Rivers State, the situation would have grave.
“Few days ago, precisely Friday March 15, 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) blamed the military for the delay in elections in Rivers State. This is most ridiculous and uncharitable opinion of the military by an electoral body that failed in its responsibility to conduct credible, free and fair elections in Rivers State.
“It is appalling that INEC would allow itself to be used in a most dubious manner, in cahoot with disgruntled politicians and alien bodies in a wider conspiracy to ridicule the Nigerian military and frustrates its efforts at securing the peace and territorial integrity of the country.
“In a rush to absolve itself of glaring inadequacies and incompetence in the conduct of the elections in Rivers state, INEC hurriedly commissioned a fact finding team which was handed a template. In the end, it alluded that the military interfered at the collation centre which was the reason for the delay in Rivers state’s election. It is a treacherous and dubious fabrication from the pit of hell to portray the Nigerian Military and leadership in bad light”, the group said.
The Observers argued that it was apprehensive that while Bayelsa State government and other stakeholders in the Niger Delta and other states of the federation were commending the Army for its professional handling of the election, INEC will resort to disparaging the Army.
“Some foreign observer groups under the auspices of International Human Rights organizations that monitored the 2019 elections in Nigeria, in a comparative analysis with other foreign observer groups in election monitoring in other countries, commended the Nigerian military for its high sense of integrity and professionalism in the role it played in the elections in Nigeria. The group held that the military exhibited the acceptable restraint and discipline even in the face of provocation by politicians.
“Only recently, the Bayelsa State government commended the Army for its professional disposition in the just concluded general elections in the State, and further urged Nigerians to appreciate the military instead of criticizing its operations. In like manner, the Arewa Youth Coalition (AYC) described the efforts of the military in the 2019 election as legendary and in line with global best practices. It particularly praised the military for tackling the ugly violence by political thugs in Rivers State.
“The engagement by the military in the 2019 elections was clearly defined, and not in conflict with statutory provisions. The extent of military’s involvement in the electoral process was well within the confines of the provision of Section 217 of the 1999 constitution (as amended). The law empowers the military to assist the civil authorities in addressing internal security challenges, aside its primary duty of protecting the territorial borders of the country.
“It was in fulfilment of its constitutional role that military heeded the desperate call to restore sanity at a collation centre where armed political thugs, many in fake military uniforms, had overpowered police men and election officers on duty. How could the Electoral Body be so blind to the efforts by the military to secure the collation centre for a peaceful electoral exercise in a glaring chaotic environment that was invested by unruly political thuggery and violence?
“Therefore, the military was not only deployed to Rivers State alone, they were equally sent to violence prone areas across all geopolitical zones in the country, including Niger Delta States of Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom. In many of these locations, the military was praised for their role at curbing nefarious activities of political thugs, touts, and ballot box snatchers”, the group stressed.
INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu