20 March 2019

Nigeria: House to Investigate Military Involvement in General Election

The House of Representatives has adopted a motion to probe the involvement of military personnel in the just- concluded general election.

This is coming as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, has cautioned the federal government against the militarisation of elections in Nigeria.

A House of Representatives member representing Nsukka/Igbo-Eze South Federal Constituency of Enugu State, Hon. Asadu Patrick, in his motion tagged: 'The Alleged Illegal Deployments, Uses, Misuses and Abuses of Soldiers of the Nigerian Army During the 2019 and Other Election Against the Express Provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the Armed Forces Act and Valid Subsisting Judgments of Various Courts of Competent Jurisdiction" expressed disappointment over the involvement of military men in the elections.

Referring to THISDAY of January 20, 2019 edition, where the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, was quoted to have said, "Army cannot disobey any order given by the president," when President Muhammadu Buhari gave the shoot-to-kill ballot box snatchers order, Asadu argued that the army chief directed commanders and soldiers on how to operate during elections without any recourse to the relevant laws or the National Assembly.

According to him, "Despite strident opposition to this position of the Chief of Army Staff on the deployment and possible role of the army during elections, the Nigerian Army allegedly deployed its officers and men in large numbers during the 2019 general election in flagrant disobedience to the courts and our laws, without any communication to the National Assembly from Mr. President on the need to deploy soldiers or even to inform members that these soldiers were deployed on the order of Mr. President.

"Though some of these soldiers reportedly acted professionally and neutrally during these elections, other deployed soldiers were alleged to have descended into the arena of conflict, taken partisan sides and interfered with and in some cases, aborted the electoral process, as was reported in Rivers State, where the umpire, the INEC has officially in a statement signed by the Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Educations, Mr. Festus Okoye, indicted soldiers of the Nigerian Army, accusing soldiers of invading the collation centres, interfering with the collation of results and illegally arresting some INEC officials, thereby disrupting the collation and completion of the elections, all in alleged attempt to thwart the will of the people as expressed through the ballot."

Describing the Nigerian Army as a nationally accepted, unifying and critical agency, Asadu said that it should not be unnecessarily dragged into partisan politics on purely civilian contests, adding that the development can damage its professionalism, national acceptability, ethical standards, discipline and rating both nationally or internationally.

Adopting the motion -- as a matter of urgency, he urged the House of Representatives to set up a high-powered ad hoc committee to carry out a holistic, detailed, comprehensive and far-reaching investigation of the deployment, uses, misuses and abuses of the soldiers of the Nigerian Army in the 2019 election and other elections and make adequate recommendations to the House within four weeks.

The motion was subsequently adopted by the House.

Meanwhile, Falana has cautioned the federal government against the militarisation of elections in the country.

Falana's warning followed what he described as the attendant violence perpetrated by members of the armed forces during the recent general election, describing it as "militarisation of election".

He called on the federal government to investigate the illegal deployment of the armed personnel in Rivers State and other states during the 2019 general election with a view to sanctioning the military personnel and their civilian collaborators who engaged in the intimidation and brutal killing of voters who trooped out to exercise their franchise.

Falana said the information available revealed that the Nigerian Army was not deployed by the INEC to provide security in any of the collation centres in Rivers State, neither were they deployed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Falana noted in a statement issued yesterday that the Nigerian Army reacted to the report of the fact- finding committee set up by the INEC, and denied military involvement in the intimidation and killing of unarmed voters in Port Harcourt.

He said it was curious that the Nigerian Army, which had set up a panel to probe the illegal activities of its personnel in the Rivers State governorship election could turn around to attack INEC for arriving at the same conclusion.

"In 2014, the PDP-led government deployed platoons of armed soldiers to Ekiti State for the gubernatorial election. A week before the election, the army banned two APC governors- Adams Oshiomhole and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi from entering Ekiti State. During the election the voters were subjected to horrendous harrassment by the armed troops. The Court of Appeal condemned the illegal militarisation of the election. Embarrassed by the judicial indictment the authorities of the Nigerian Army probed the intimidation of voters in Ekiti State and flushed out the military personnel who exposed the Nigerian Armed Forces to ridicule," Falana explained.

He added that, "it is pertinent to point out that as a result the several cases filed by the chieftains of the former ACN and CPC as well as APC from 2003 to 2015, our courts declared the deployment of the armed forces in the conduct of elections in Nigeria illegal and unconstitutional. Consequently, the amendments of the Electoral Act 2010 on March 27, 2015 empowered INEC to deploy security agencies during elections.

He concluded by stating that, "in this day and age in this country that has been independent for 59 years we can still witness horrendous acts by security officers who ought to dutifully ensure peace and tranquility in the election process, suddenly turning themselves into agents of destruction, and introduced mayhem to what ordinarily would have been a civilised way of exercising franchise by the people who are sovereign, is regrettable."

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