The Nigerian Army, in a statement on Sunday described as untrue and false, allegations by some politicians that soldiers of its 6 Division engaged in killing and mass arrest of residents in Tai, Ogoni, Gokhna-Ogoni LGA of Rivers State during Saturday’s legislative re-run election.
It said while it was “true that soldiers of 6 Division Nigerian Army provided security during the Rivers State…,” their involvement was not deep.
Claims of the soldiers engaging in “ballot box snatching, illegal escorts of some politicians, arrest and detention of voters during the general conduct of the elections,” the statement added, were aimed at tarnishing the positive image of the Army.
Contrary to the claims, the Army said its troops provided perimeter defence to ward off hoodlums and miscreants and “acted swiftly in response to security breaches in order to enforce the law.
The soldiers, the statement continued, provided aid to the Nigeria Police and other security agencies especially in areas like Abonema, Etche, Gokhana, Ikwere, Eleme, Tai, Khana and Omoku amongst others, which are areas susceptible to insecurity.
Electoral officials, voters, international and local observers in those areas, the Army stressed further, we’re in need of protection in conjunction with other security agencies to ensure a peaceful election.
“The weighty nature of these allegations could cause members of the public to view soldiers negatively, hence the need to adequately inform the general public on the true perspective. The public thus need to consider them as mere farce to garner public sympathy, the statement added, stressing that the Nigerian Army remained apolitical in the conduct of the election.
Instead of the claims, the statement added that in these volatile areas armed men engaged security personnel.
Specifically, the Army noted that “in Gokhana, armed hoodlums engaged the soldiers providing outer perimeter defence for the electorates.
“In Abonema at 0730 hours (on Saturday), there were three explosions that created bedlam. Subsequently, 11 NYSC members were abducted along with electoral materials. However, 10 of them were rescued two hours later by the soldiers, while one was rescued about eight hours later.
“At Emouha, Mr Oblewaremu abducted five NYSC members with election materials in a Siena bus. The corps members were rescued while the suspect was handed over to the Police.
“Several shooting were recorded in some communities such as Bodo, the home town of the secretary to the State Government, B-dere and Mogho in Gokhana LGA, including snatching of ballot boxes. The most brutal incidence occurred at Ujju Community near Omoku in Onelga where police patrol team was ambushed. In the ambush, 10 policemen scampered into the bush.
“The Mobile Police organized a rescue mission. Regrettably, the team discovered that DSP Alkali Mohammed of Mobile Police Unit 48 was beheaded along with his orderly. The patrol vehicle was taken away with weapons, three policemen escaped while five were missing in action. This is the same area where soldiers of 34 Brigade were ambushed on 20 November 2016 where a soldier was killed.
“Also on 21 November 2016, 4 personnel of NSCDC were killed and their weapons carted away. These attacks are reasonable evidence of violations of breach of law and order which portray the area as a flash point. Despite these barbarism, soldiers acted with civility and professionally guaranteeing peaceful election.”
The statement added that the under such circumstances, the “Nigerian Army as a respected institution with constitutional responsibility to safeguard lives and property, could not watch miscreants and hoodlums abducting, maiming and killing innocent citizens especially in senseless attacks on uniform personnel.”
Contrary to claims too, the Army described accusations of soldiers engaging in partisanship as sham and phony, stressing that the “Rivers State Re-Run Election was adjudged credible, free, fair and peaceful in many parts of the State,”
The Army said its own 6 Division “would continue to maintain apolitical posture in discharge of its roles to ensure provision of adequate security in Rivers State.”