LAGOS – Ahead of the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections, the two leading political parties in the country, All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been trading blames over alleged plans to militarise the elections in order to scare people away from exercising their civic responsibilities.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also said it may request the assistance of the military in the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections if violence breaks out in certain places and the security agencies on ground, especially the Police and officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) are incapable of containing the situation.
Speaking with Daily Independent , Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to Chairman of INEC said the military has always been a part of elections conducted by INEC but are usually restricted to the border areas leading to the states in order to prevent movement in and out of the state while elections are going on.
He said based on INEC procedures, for every election, there is an Inter-Consultative Committee on Election Security which involves all security agencies in the country, including the military.
He however said only unarmed policemen and Civil Defence officers are allowed to be at the polling booths.
“The military has always been part of our elections. For every election, there is what we call Inter-Consultative Committee on Election Security. That committee comprises of all the security agencies, with the police as the lead agency”.
“In other words, all the security agencies get involved in our elections one way or the other and there are three levels. One, the polling unit level, where we have policemen who are not armed that are around the polling unit area and sometimes, they are joined by the Civil Defence officers”.
“Two, we have the cauldron or the patrol team and these ones are armed. This patrol team is a combination of security agencies. The third and the last is the border post; that is where usually we have the army and they are armed. Their main job is to ensure no movement into and outside the state because there will be a lockdown during the period of election. So, it is to that extent that the military will be involved”.
“However, if in the course of the election, the situation gets rough in any area, INEC may request for the military before they can come in”.
“In other words, it is only after INEC has informed the military of the need to intervene particularly in areas of special risks; maybe the situation there is beyond the capacity of those who are there and there is a need for stronger force, then INEC can call the military in”.
“But otherwise, if there are no issues, the military will stay at the border posts. That has always been the case for all the elections that we have been conducting” he said.
In a related development, the Peoples Democratic Party Youth Network has cautioned against the deployment of the military for electoral purposes during the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial poll in Bayelsa.
The Secretary General of the PDPYN Comrade James Oputin, said in a statement on Tuesday that the soldiers have shown bias by their antecedents in providing purported security during previous elections.
Oputin recalled that soldiers of the Nigerian Army shot and killed a Government House Photographer, Mr. Reginald Dei and a PDP Ward leader In Oweikorogha, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area on Election Day on February 23, 2019.
He added that soldiers connived with APC thugs to cart away election materials and aided the wildest rigging in Bayelsa history which gave the party its victory in the last senatorial election.
He noted further that soldiers who arrested the Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Nabena Yekini with arms at Odi quickly released him at the prompting of their superiors.
The PDPYN Scribe said that the Army authorities have not reacted to build confidence in the people since the gruesome acts of right violation and unprovoked murder of the journalist and his friend during the last election in Southern Ijaw.
He said that the PDPYN and the Bayelsa people who have not forgotten the grisly incident and other acts of bias inked to the Army are indeed wary of the deployment of soldiers whose brazen activities left no one in doubt that they were on a mission to rig election for the APC.
Also, Concerned Nigerians have urged the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, to jettison any plan to deploy soldiers for the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa states governorship elections.
Human rights activist, Deji Adeyanju, in a letter on behalf of the group, dated October 31, 2019, and addressed to the army chief, stated, “This should mark a turning point for the army to regain the trust of Nigerians.”
According to the group, the murky waters of Nigerian politics have continued to necessitate the deployment of the nation’s gallant soldiers for elections and has in no small measure tainted the solid professional reputation of the army.
The group recalled, “For this singular reason, you once set up a panel to investigate the conduct of soldiers during the 2014 governorship election in which some officers were found wanting and sanctioned. We had expected that that singular action was going to stop the use of the army for elections. But it is never too late for our army to fully return to the path of professionalism and regain the trust of Nigerians.
“As we approach the Kogi and Bayelsa states gubernatorial elections, we believe it is paramount to remind the Nigerian army that its involvement in the 2019 general elections left indelible scars in the hearts of most Nigerians.
According to him, the Army is already overstretched with several internal operations and it should be saved from political distractions.
“The police are adequately prepared to deploy officers for this election as they did during the general elections.”
If the police could adequately deploy its officers to the 36 states during the elections, it won’t have any challenges in just two states – Kogi and Bayelsa”.