By Ignatius Chukwu (Culled from BD Sunday)
Everyday, one alarm or the other is raised in Port Harcourt by the state government or their allies, all against the Army, Police or the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. On the other hand, the Army in particular parades sets of suspects that they said they caught doing evil. They usually hand them over to the police for further action. This has set a dangerous tone for showdown.
Now, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State seems ready to take on the Nigerian Army in a full scale encounter that may reverberate around Nigeria and beyond. Already, the governor has made it clear while addressing politicians that just defected that no man born of woman or any gunboat can dethrone him, as long as God and the people were on his side.
The Nigerian Army in the state led by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, a major-general, Jamil Sarhem, has made it clear that nothing would deter them from performing their assigned role to safeguard lives and property and allow Rivers people perform their civic duty of voting a person of their choice in the coming elections as they did in the past one last weekend. This seems to have set the stage for an epic battle.
Before now, Wike had taken the battle to SARS and seemed to win when the man he hated most, Akin Fakarode, was transferred to Maiduguri. Now, he seems to be quietly back on election duties, but that is no more Wike’s main headache. The troubles seem to have rather grown bigger.
Wike, who as minister was the toast of the federal agencies in the state including the security agencies seems to now be at loggerheads with them; how time changes. He bought about 10 gunboats to help the Navy and warned them not to use them to fight against him in the elections. His worst fears seem to be on display.
Few weeks ago, Wike, who boasts of having spies in all places and at all levels, began to warn that the Army was being positioned against him in the elections. Now, he says his predictions are happening.
On February 21, Wike raised alarm, saying the GOC had planned the arrest of 10 Local Government Council chairmen in the state in a bid to scuttle the elections in the state. He told newsmen that the intention of the GOC 6 Division was to generate insecurity and violence through undue provocation of the people. He said the GOC had also pencilled down 182 persons who would be arrested across the 23 Local Government Areas. He said majority were PDP members.
Governor Wike said: “The GOC 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarham has stated that he will arrest the Chairman of Ikwerre, Abua/Odual, Mayor of Port Harcourt, Chairman of Bonny and Degema Local Government Area.
“Other Chairmen to be arrested by the GOC include, Akuku-Toru, Asari-Toru, Gokana, Khana and Eleme Local Government Areas”.
The governor noted: “What offence have these council chairmen committed to warrant this illegal intimidation? If they committed any offences, were these offences committed within the election period? Why were they noted arrested before now.
“These are the actions that will lead to crisis. Allow the people to vote freely and their votes must count. Rivers people must be allowed to vote”.
The situation seems to be so fierce that the governor has threatened to drag the Army and their commander to the international court. He said few days ago that the State Government has written to the International Criminal Court to prosecute the GOC for alleged prosecution for crimes against humanity.
Governor Wike said instead of running in circles, the GOC should explain to Nigerians the reasons why the 6 Division stormed Collation Centres in Ikwerre, Emohua and Okrika Local Government Areas with INEC Electoral Officers, accusing him of stealing electoral materials and concocting results.
The Governor stated that the GOC issuing false statements would not save the GOC from prosecution. Speaking during a media briefing in response to the false allegations by the 6 Division that he tried to compromise soldiers of the 6 Division, Governor Wike described the allegation as false, malicious and diversionary .
He said: “We are doing a petition to the International Criminal Court. We are demanding justice for all those killed by the GOC and his lieutenants.
The Army fired back through their spoekesman, Aminu Ilyasu who said: “The attention of Headquarters 6 Division Nigerian Army (NA) is drawn to some unscrupulous and wicked assertions by the Rivers State Government. In the most bazaar and slanderous statement, the government persons criminally and frivolously accused the person of a respected professional (Brig Gen Nasiru Najaja) the Commander 6 Military Intelligence Brigade to the effect that the senior officer was prevented access to the Port Harcourt CBN premises by some so called PDP members who stopped him from tampering with sensitive electoral materials. Okah further went ahead to brazenly accuse the institution of the 6 Division for planning to rig the election in favour of another political party.
For the avoidance of doubt, as part of the NA’s constitutional responsibility of aiding civil authority and our mandate to safeguarding Key Points and Vulnerable Points of our dear nation, troops of 6 Division NA were accordingly deployed and further reinforced at various locations including the CBN Port Harcourt where INEC deposit sensitive materials before, during and after elections. Brig Gen Najaja as the coordinator of all deployments was at the CBN Port Harcourt and other locations to assess the level of troops deployment and alertness. This deployment must have thwarted Mr Okah’s sinister plans and that of his pay masters thereby making such frustrating statements.
Additionally, the Division wishes to categorically demand an unreserved apology and withdrawal of the slanderous statement by the government against the NA and the person of Brig Gen Nasiru Najaja within 72 Hours of this publication failure of which will lead to institution of a legal proceedings.
When the elections came at last, the Nigerian Army on Wednesday, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State paraded 30 suspect, including a serving Commissioner, lawmaker in the Rivers House of Assembly and a Major in the army over an alleged plan by Governor Nyesom Wike to use them to comprise members of the Nigerian Army in last Saturday’s Presidential election.
Also paraded was Wike’s Camp Commandant, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, in Government House.
The Army Public Relations Office,r 6 Division Nigerian Army (NA), the Colonel, Iliyasu Aminu, who paraded the suspects to journalists on a live television said there was a daring attempt by Wike to compromise security agencies, particularly troops of 6 Division NA with hefty financial inducements to help him in his illegitimate act of thwarting a free and fair electoral process to his favour while accusing the army and its command hierarchy of bias daily.
He stated that the army, in close collaboration and synergy with all other security agencies in the Division’s Area of Responsibility (AOR) which covers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States and its commitment and loyalty to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria resolved to be neutral and apolitical, but was underestimated by Wike.
H went on: “Incidentally, while the officer and his men were manning a Check Point at Mbiama Bridge, a white Hilux vehicle with a Rivers State Government Reg No.L02-03RV RIVERS and 8 occupants was stopped for routine search and clearance. A carton and 2 bundles of INEC 2019 presidential Election ballot papers were discovered in the vehicle. Preliminary investigation reveals that none of the occupants of the vehicle is an INEC staff, INEC Ad-hoc staff or security agent.”
In swift reaction, Wike said the State Government had written to the International Criminal Court to prosecute the General Officer Commanding ( GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarhem for prosecution for crimes against humanity.
Wike said instead of running in circles, the GOC should explain to Nigerians the reasons why the 6 Division allegedly stormed Collation Centres in Ikwerre, Emohua and Okrika Local Government Areas with INEC Electoral Officers, accusing him of stealing electoral materials and concocting results.
As the governorship election comes near, the stage seems set for the epic battle because the previous ones seem to be mere dress rehearsal.