Thursday, September 10, 2015 11:25 pm
On a day that some governorship candidates in the 11 April election in Rivers State commended Ms Gesila Khan, the resident electoral commissioner, for a job well done, a military officer who witnessed the poll in many parts of the state has given a different account, that discredited the REC .
Captain Garba Sani, a military officer, who monitored the April 11 governorship election in Rivers on Thursday told the state election tribunal that there was no election on April 11.
Sani, who led a deployment of the military during the election, told the governorship tribunal sitting in Abuja how his team encountered thugs everywhere they visited.
The appearance of the military at the tribunal to give evidence was followed by a subpoena issued by the tribunal at the instance of the two petitioners.
The APC and its candidate, Mr Dakuku Peterside, had approached the Justice Suleman Ambrosa led three-man tribunal, seeking the nullification of Gov. Nyesom Wike’s election.
The tribunal was seeking nullification on the ground that the election was marked by irregularities and fraudulent practices.
Sani gave the testimony while being led in evidence by Counsel to the petitioners, Mr Akinlolu Olujimi, (SAN).
The witness also confirmed to the tribunal that the military was able to arrest some of the armed thugs and handed them over to the Police for further actions.
“We arrived at Tai Local Government on April 10 to ascertain the level of security but we encountered thugs, over 200 in a particular place and some of them carrying machetes.
“I was able to arrest one of them with his cutlass and handed him over to policemen who came in an operational truck.
“There were a lot of road blocks mounted by thugs and as we are clearing one, the hoodlums were erecting in other places.
“Specifically, we had serious crisis in Nonwa Community on the election day. Some of the thugs came up and disrupted the electioneering processes. They carted away some election materials.’’
“In the process of curtailing them, one Corporal by name Jelili was injured and we had to take him to hospital,’’ Sani said.
He added that some of the INEC staff were rescued from the claws of the thugs and were moved to the INEC office at the local government headquarters.
“On their way to INEC office, they saw a van of Civil Defense operatives who narrated their own ordeal.’’
Sani quoted the Civil Defense operatives as saying they had been able to arrest some policemen and thugs thumb printing ballot papers and had handed them over at a police station.
The witness stressed that there were attempts to conduct elections in some places, but he did not witness any particular place where election took place.
When the witness was cross-examined by Counsel to Wike, Mr Okey Wali (SAN), he informed the tribunal that he led a team of 38 soldiers deployed to the place by the military authority.
Sani however denied the insinuation that the military aided election rigging.
According to him, the army is a disciplined organisation and will not indulge in such a crime of aiding a political party to rig.
He also denied ever shooting to scare away voters.
He claimed that as the team leader of the group, he had written a report on his finding and that the report was in the possession of the military.
He said that he did not escort election materials because it was not part of his schedule and that he did not interrogate the arrested thugs but handed them over to police for interrogation.
Mr Onyechi Ikpeazu, Counsel to INEC when cross-examining the witness, the army officer said that he was not stationed at any specific place but moved round in two Military Hilux Vans.
Sani disagreed with the question that those carrying guns and machetes were farmers and hunters because there was restriction on movement on the election day.
When Mr Ifedayo Adedipe , SAN, Counsel to the PDP cross examined the witness, the army officer said that the road-blocks were not mounted by the police but political thugs who hid themselves and ran away on sighting the military.
He said that some of the thugs were over-powered when they ordered them to lie face down, arrested them and handed them over to the police.
Read a related report here: He said, “no result sheet, no election till everybody left around 6:30 p.m