There was a pandemonium yesterday at the headquarters of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt following the parading of some officials of the Rivers government for alleged financial inducement during the presidential and federal legislative elections in the state.
Governor Nyesom Wike said the allegation to induce army officers was a “diversionary ploy from the wanton killings committed last Saturday.”
Those paraded by the military were the Commissioner for Urban Development, Dr. Reason Onya, and the member representing Ahoada West state constituency, Wakama Okpokiri. They were also accused of vote buying and perpetrating violence during the exercise.The military equally paraded an officer, Major-General A.P. Ubah, as well as four policemen, DSP Oyoku Ifelle, the Camp Commandant of Rivers State Government House; Sergeant Akanu Garba; Inspector Hycent Oboi; and Sergeant Nketan Chucks for allegedly being in possession of N2.5 million, four INEC tags, customised Government House brown envelops during the polls.
Spokesman for the division, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, claimed that Onya and Okpokiri were caught handing over huge sums of money to an army officer at Akinima in Ahoada West Local Council of the state to “pave way for election rigging.” He further alleged that the commissioner later visited the military camp at Akinima and requested to be introduced to the commander while the lawmaker reportedly offered the officer some amount of money which was rejected by him before sending the pair away.
The spokesman also claimed that at another location in Mbiama, a vehicle carrying several cartons and two bundles of the presidential ballot papers was intercepted and the occupants, who were not INEC staff, arrested. Iliyasu said Onya also came and pleaded with the officer to release the occupants.
According to him, when he officer could not be swayed, Onya placed a call to the governor and requested to speak with him who referred the state chief executive to the General Officer Commanding (GOC). He said after stiff resistance, the officer gave the commissioner his number to pass to Governor Wike, which he did, via a Whatsapp message, adding that within 10 minutes, the governor placed a call to him. The alleged voice of the governor was however played to reporters.
When the military paraded the government officials alongside some INEC officers, they claimed innocence, saying they were under duress to confess to the allegation. However, Inspector Ubah said the N2 million found on him was for welfare and feeding of the officers on duty on the day in question.
Admitting that he spoke with the army officer, who arrested the commissioner and others as they were conveying election materials as party agents, Wike stated that the state government had written to the International Criminal Court (ICC), human rights groups and embassies attaching the pictures of those killed by the military.
Besides, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), LITE-Africa, has deplored the alleged attack on its Executive Director, Joel Bisina, by men of the 19th Battalion of the Nigerian Army a day after the February 23 polls in Delta.
In a statement, it said the action amounted to violation of his basic fundamental human rights while on election monitoring duties.The NGO lamented that the incident occurred right in front of the INEC office at Koko in Warri North council area of the state.
A senior military officer, who craved anonymity, said if Bisina was “assaulted so badly the way he claimed, why were there no video or pictorial evidence to prove his case because a lot of people were there when the incident happened.”He said: “I advise you get in touch with the 6 Division spokesman. I can’t talk. Besides, the incident happened in Koko and not under my command.”Calls put to the 6 Division spokesman were not picked.