Thursday, February 28, 2019 9:53 am
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
The biggest drama of the last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections arguably took place in Rivers State.
The still unfolding drama began days before the election when officials of the State Government accused officer of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army of attempting to tamper with sensitive electoral materials stored in the Port Harcourt Branch of Central Bank of Nigeria.
And as the elections were being conducted, there were reports and allegations of use of soldiers to hijack electoral materials and rig the elections between members of the Peoples Democratic Party, led by Governor Wike and chieftains of All Progressives Congress led by Minister of Transportation and a former governor of the State, Rotimi Amaechi.
The drama peaked, at least for now, last Tuesday with the parade of 30 suspects including a serving Commissioner, a member of Rivers House of Assembly, a serving Major in Army and Wike’s Camp Commandant, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, in Government House over by the 6 Division of the over allegation that the Governor had attempted to use them to comprise the presidential election.
The Army Public Relations Officer 6 Division Nigerian Army (NA),Colonel Iliyasu Aminu, who parraded the suspects to journalists and on a live television on behalf of the General Officer Commanding, GOC, Major General Jamil Sarham said the suspects were arrested in the course of a daring attempt by Governor Wike to compromise security agencies, particularly troops of 6 Division with hefty financial inducements to rig the election.
According to him, Governor Wike had underestimated the commitment and loyalty of Nigerian Army to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief and resolve to be neutral and apolitical in his attempt to bribe the troops.
He said, “On Saturday 23rd February 2019 at about 8:45 am following a tip up on attempt by Governor Wike’s aids to induce and compromise troops deployed at the CBN Port Harcourt premises, Major AP Ubah and 3 other Police personnels, DSP Owen Oyoku Irikefe (Camp Comdt Rivers State Govt House), Sgt Akanu Garba , Inspector Hycent Oboi and Sgt Nketan Chucks were arrested by a team from HQ 6 Division.
According to Colonel Iliyasu, Preliminary investigations led to discovery of the sum of Two Million, Two Hundred and Fifty thousand Naira (N2,250,000.00) in a Range Rover belonging to the DSP.
Other items recovered are 4 INEC 2019 Electoral Tags, Customised Rivers State Government House brown envelopes while the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Naira (500,000.00) only was found in the Toyota vehicle belonging to Maj AP Ubah .
He claimed that the Major confessed that the money was given to him by the Governor’s aides in addition to offer of a well-furnished accommodation for the period of his tour of duty.
Iliyasu said further that on the same Saturday 23rd February 2019, at about 7:00 am, a member of Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon Opokri Wanaka representing Ahoada East in company of Dr Reason Onya Williams, Rivers State Commissioner for Urban Development visited own troops Camp at Akinima and requested to be acquainted with the Commander of the troops at the location.
The Army spokesperson claimed Opokri offered the officer money which he removed from his pocket but the officer not only rejected the offer, but sent the duo away.
Incidentally, while the Officer and his men were manning a Check Point at Mbiama Bridge, a white Hilux vehicle with a Rivers State Government Reg No.L02-03RV RIVERS and 8 occupants was stopped for routine search and clearance. A carton and 2 bundles of INEC 2019 presidential Election ballot papers were discovered in the vehicle.
Preliminary investigation reveals that none of the occupants of the vehicle is an INEC staff, INEC Ad-hoc staff or security agent.
According to the spokesman of the 6 Division, during interrogations, Hon Opokri Wanaka and Dr Reason Onya Williams revealed that they had tried to convince the troops that the vehicle is part of INEC convoy that was left behind and that the vehicle should be allowed to go because the electorates are waiting.
However, “When the vigilant officer refused to be convinced, Dr Reason immediately placed a call to Governor Wike and His Excellency requested to speak with the officer who declined and requested the Governor to please call the GOC.
“After much resistance, the officer gave Dr Reason Onya Willams his number to pass to Governor Wike which he did via Whatsapp message. Within 10 minutes Governor Wike placed a call to the officer. “
The recorded audio voice telephone conversation alleged to be that of Governor Wike was played over and over to hearing of journalists.
“The bundles of money found on the camp Commandant and the Major AP Uba were display before the journalists.”
The Army spokesperson also recalled on Saturday 15th February 2019 the eve of the now rescheduled Presidential and NASS elections, one Barr Emma Okah issued a statement alleging that a very senior officer of the 6 Command attempted to tamper with INEC sensitive materials at the CBN Port Harcourt premises.
“A rejoinder was immediately issued by HQ 6 Division which not only rebutted the allegation but also demanded an apology from Emma Okah within 72 hours or face legal action. As at this moment, Emma Okah has arrogantly refused to heed the advice.
He added that the 30 suspects will be handed over handed over to the State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, of the Police for investigation and possible prosecution.
But the suspects denied allegations by the Army spokesperson even as they were being paraded on television.
They alleged that the allegations by the Army were concocted to implicate Governor Wike in criminal activities because of his opposition to the use of soldiers to allegedly rig the election.
Also, in his own reaction, Wike said State Government has written to the International Criminal Court to prosecute the General Officer Commanding ( GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarhem for prosecution for crimes against humanity.
He also asked the GOC of the 6 Division to explain to Nigerians why troops under his Command stormed Collation Centres in Ikwerre, Emohua and Okrika Local Government Areas to allegedly steal electoral materials and help in manipulation of results of the election.
Wike also described as false claims that he tried to compromise soldiers of the 6 Division.
He said: “We are doing a petition to the International Criminal Court. We are demanding justice for all those killed by the GOC and his lieutenants.
“We will also send a petition to all the major embassies in the country on the atrocities committed against Rivers people by the GOC and his soldiers. We have also ready sent a petition to the Chief of Army Staff on the criminal actions of the GOC”.
Governor Wike stated that he has credible intelligence that the GOC has concluded plans to open fire on his convoy, with the objective of causing a deadly shoot-out.
“Nigerians watched in utter dismay as three Local Government Electoral Officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC ) indicted soldiers of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army for orchestrating electoral violence, snatching election materials and criminally colluding with APC leaders to concoct results during the Presidential and National Assembly elections. Rather than respond to these allegations, the GOC is making diversionary allegations.
“These weighty indictments of the officers and men of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army by the INEC Officials confirm earlier intelligence that the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 6 Division, Major General Jamil Sarham is neck deep in the killings of Rivers people and manipulation of the elections.
“Mrs Mary Efeture Imawuya INEC Electoral Officer of Ikwerre LGA, INEC Electoral Officer for Emohua Local Government Area, Kenneth Etah and INEC Electoral Officer of Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, Mr Leo Okon who addressed the Rivers East Senatorial District Collation Centre at Elekahia were unequivocal in their indictments of the soldiers and their criminal activities during the elections”, he said.
“The major problem they should defend is the INEC Officers who declared that the soldiers of the Nigerian Army abducted them , carted away materials and concocted results”, he added.
The governor noted that it was the soldiers attached to the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi who abducted the Electoral Officer of Ikwerre LGA and compelled her to write results.
Governor Wike denied ever making an attempt to compromise the electoral process . He denied ever offering money to the Soldiers to act illegally.
He noted that when the soldiers arrested he Rivers State Commissioner of Urban Development and Physical Planning, Dr Reason Onya for being among the approved PDP agents to escort materials, the Commissioner called him.
He noted that he requested to speak with the Officer to demand the release of Onya who was on legal electoral function for the PDP.
He said the officer who declined talking called back later and he informed him that Onya was on a legal assignment. He noted that no bribe was offered.
Governor Wike said in his capacity as Governor, he spoke with about 10 different officers when PDP official agents raised concerns.
The Governor said that the mischievous press briefing by the 6 Division is tantamount to a coup against a constituted authority.
“The Army cannot be a judge in their matter. You cannot parade officials on legal Electoral duties. You cannot change the narrative. They have violated all known laws”.
However, Tonye Dele Cole, the Governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress said contrary to the claims of Wike, the killings and other violence that characterized the presidential and National Assembly elections in Rivers were the handwork of militant kingpins rewarded for their role in the 2015 elections with positions in the State House of Assembly, Local Government Councils and State Government’s appointments by the Rivers State Government.
He alleged that In Akuku Toru in particular, intelligence available to APC indicated that a strict directive was issued to the Chairman of the Local Government to stop APC from winning in the area. He added that there was also an instruction that the APC gubernatorial candidate in particular must not be allowed to win his polling unit and Ward which are in the local government.
He warned that,” Gone are the days when political thugs would hijack electoral materials and allocate hundreds of thousands of imaginary votes to PDP. The results from the various units, wards and Local Government Areas confirm these and further highlights the depth of rigging and manipulation of the 2015 elections that APC as a party had complained about.”
Cole while congratulating Presdent Muhammadu Buhari for his re-election expressed profound and sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones last weekend. In particular, he condoled the family of Miss Ibisaki Amachree who was shot while on duty, stating one death is one too many and no one has the right to kill in the name of power and politics.
He assured that the families of those who died this weekend the Federal Government will seek justice for them, no matter how long it takes.