Militarization of 2019 Elections: You have case to answer, NOPRIN tells Buhari


…Calls for enquiry into role played by security agencies

As the 2019 general elections are about to be rounded up, the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) has said that President Muhammadu Buhari owes Nigeria a duty to explain why the military were deployed in such an intimidating manner that undermined the electoral process.

The National Coordinator of NOPRIN, Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma who made this assertion in a chat with Primetime Reporters in Lagos state that this had become necessary as there was widespread violence, widespread intimidation, widespread use of the military in a manner that had never happened in this country before hence the reason some people had called for an enquiry into the role of the military to find out what happened and who deployed the military in the manner it was done in this year’s general elections.

Nwanguma said that “the military cannot be deployed in this country without the President giving clear directive as the Commander-in-Chief. So, for now, the blame goes to the President. He has to explain why the military were deployed in such intimidating manner that undermined the electoral process. Secondly, he should also clarify what the role of the military was in the last election.

“Somebody must be held into account because people were killed by the military, electoral materials were either stolen or destroyed, elections were disrupted and it is easy to identify those responsible. The first thing is to find out who ordered the deployment of the military. How could the president relinquish his power to somebody like the Minister of Transportation to be carrying soldiers everywhere in Rivers State? The same thing happened in Imo State where Rochas Okorocha was using people in both military and police uniform going about from place to place harassing and intimidating people”.

While calling for an independent enquiry into the roles played by the Nigerian security forces particularly the military in the elections, he observed that the role of the military in the election was clearly spelt out as they were not supposed to be seen at the polling centres rather they were supposed to be stationed at a particular location only to be invited when Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) thinks that their services were needed.

He furthert lamented that increasingly, politicians had formed the habit of using the military to manipulate elections even as he recalled that in 2015, when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the ruling party, there was also a case where it used the military to conduct election which forced the All Progressives Congress (APC) that was in opposition then to go to court and got a judgment.

“The court ruled clearly that the military should not play any kind of role in election. Now, APC in power has carried this criminality to a more unacceptable level which is why we saw the kind of thing that happened in Rivers State where military officers, well some people tried to be careful by saying people in military uniform because for me, the alarm was raised that there are indications that some politicians were also going to get thugs and dress them in military uniform and get them to move in vehicles painted in military colours. So, that ought to have prepared them to take measure to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

“So, whether they like it or not, I am accusing the military because the truth is that even if those people were not military officers, if you take the case of Port-Harcourt for instance, INEC office, they stayed there for hours and if they were not military officers, I expected that the military should have come and arrest them but we have not seen that anybody has been arrested, I have not heard that any fake military officer has been arrested and this has implication for professionalism because the military ought to be a professional organization that has clearly spelt out role under the law.

“This elections, both the presidential and governorship were highly militarized in such a way that they intimidate the electorate, INEC officials and election observers. We have cases where observers were either arrested or prevented from accessing collation centres and those were the places that this rigging is carried out and what we found was that figures that were recorded at the polling units changed the moment they got to the collation centres and the military were used to do these things. I fact, in the case of Rivers, we were told that they were stopping INEC officials who were coming in with results and they screened these results, the ones that they don’t like, they will send them out.

“So, clearly, they were engaged in rigging and for me, these elections were highly rigged and that is why the way Nigerians turned out during the presidential election, the enthusiasm that Nigerians expressed, their coming out in large numbers showed that there was high interest in the elections but when the results were released, everywhere was quiet which for me showed that the outcome of that election didn’t really reflect the will of Nigerians and of course, during the governorship election, people refused to come out which for me, was a credence that people have lost interest.

“For me, the major issue that should be looked into is the role of the military in elections and how they have helped to subvert the will of the people, how they have to prevent the people from freely expressing their franchise and of course, it affects the outcome of the election and public acceptance, the legitimacy and the acceptance that any government should get from the people.

“So, for me, the truth is that this election is not election in the real sense of the word. They were more like war and it reflects in the outcome and the way Nigerians are feeling about it except of course, in few states where you could say results reflected the people’s vote”, he said.

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