The Nigerian Army has strongly denied accusations that soldiers were involved in mass killing and arrest at Tai and Gokhana Local Government Areas of Rivers state.
Governor Nyesom Wike had alleged that security agents were deployed to Rivers to manipulate the result of the polls.
But Maj.-Gen. Kasimu Abdulkarim, the General Officer Commanding of the 6 division in Port Harcourt, the state capital, said the allegations were aimed at tarnishing the image of the army.
“It is true that soldiers of 6 Division Nigerian Army provided security during the Rivers legislative re-run election.
“These people allegedly accused soldiers of ballot box snatching, illegal escorts of some politicians, arrest and detention of voters during the general conduct of the elections.
“The public thus need to consider them as mere farce to garner public sympathy,” the GOC said.
According to Abdulkarim, the 6 Division, Nigerian Army remained apolitical in the conduct of the election. Its soldiers provided perimeter defence to ward off hoodlums and miscreants.
He further said the troops were in no way involved in any form of ballot box snatching, neither were they involved in the escort of politicians as alleged.
“They acted swiftly in response to security breaches in order to enforce the law, provide aid to the police and other security agencies especially in areas like Abonema, Etche, Gokhana, Ikwere, Eleme, Tai, Khana and Omoku amongst others.
“Susceptibility of mentioned areas warranted providing security for the electoral officials, voters, international and local observers, in conjunction with other security agencies by soldiers for a peaceful election to thrive in the environment,” he said.
Areas violated by armed men
The GOC said those areas were violated by armed men, who engaged security personnel in shootout.
“In Gokhana, armed hoodlums engaged the soldiers providing outer perimeter defence for the electorates.
“In Abonema 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 Emouh five NYSC members were abducted with election materials in a Siena bus.
“The corps members were rescued while the suspect was handed over to the police.
Shootings in communities
“Several shooting were recorded in some communities such as Bodo, the home town of the Secretary to the State Government, and Mogho in Gokhana Local Government Area, 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.
“These attacks are reasonable evidence of violations of breach of law and order which portray the area as a flash point.
“In spite these barbarism, soldiers acted with civility and professionalism in guaranteeing peaceful election,” he said.
Abdulkarim said the army, as a respected institution with constitutional responsibility to safeguard lives and property, could not watch miscreants and hoodlums abduct and kill innocent citizens, especially “in senseless attacks.”