SECURITY Fireworks at Journalists seminar on electoral violence

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* Ledum Mitee: Truckloads of soldiers now follow top politicians about

* Army PRO: Soldiers cannot guard civilians, COAS order is clear

* Emma Okah: Police is bent on rigging Rivers elections in 2019

* Courageous soldier told to choose between transfer to Degema and Maiduguri

Was a soldier who did his duty strictly well given marching orders to move to Degema in Rivers State from Ikwerre local council area or face journey to Maiduguri?

Is it true that a political hitman today lives with a bullet in his heart because his masters have since abandoned him? In fact, did seven truckloads of soldiers escort a political appointee to a home in Ogoni?

These questioned tumbled out of a seminar on election violence in Port Harcourt on Monday, November 19, 2018.

Journalists under the Federated Correspondents Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State, who thought they merely organized a seminar on electoral violence found that it became something else as opposing voices took over the Atlantic Hall of Hotel Presidential on Monday, November 19, 2018.

Fireworks began when the guest speaker, Ledum Mitee, now heading an NGO, Initiative for Credible Elections,  after blaming journalists for not doing enough to uphold credible elections, accused the Army of showing too much enthusiasm in elections. He said it has become lucrative to work for politicians and said a politician now in government visited him few weeks back with seven truckloads of soldiers.

He said militarizing elections was very bad for Nigeria’s democracy. He hit harder at journalists for allegedly writing for those who paid highest and slammed security agencies for working for politicians. He said some of those who maimed for politicians in the past were now living in regret because the politicians have abandoned them.

Reacting, the Army Public Relations Office (APRO), Ahmed Ilyasu, who added more light after the Commandant of Signals 56 had presented his goodwill message, said pointedly that soldiers do not guard civilians. He said it would be impossible for truckloads of soldiers to guard a civilian no matter how highly placed. Ilyasu said soldiers have no business near polling stations but can by law provide zonal security while other security agencies, he said, would do the rest.

Just when many were about to be convinced, the Rivers State Commissioner of Information & Communications, Barr Emma Okah, threw bombshells, saying pointedly that soldiers were doing exactly what Ilyasu said they were not doing. He said soldiers led by a courageous officer deployed three soldiers to one polling station in Ikwerre local council area of Rivers State during the rerun elections and that they performed excellently well, showing that when left to their wills, soldiers and other security agencies would be efficient and neutral.

He however lamented that all that effort was wasted when order came that the soldier be transferred to Degema. After that, he said, things changed and the results were no more the same he said the soldier was told to choose between Degema and Borno State (Boko Haram).

The seminar also struggled to determine who is most culpable in election violence in Rivers State; the press, security agencies or INEC. The former Trade Union Congress boss in Rivers State, Comrade/Chief Chika Onuegbu, rather said politicians must rightly be held responsible because they were the drummers that beat what everyone else was dancing. That seemed to be the resolution of the heated debate of the noon.

The Correspondents led by Sir Ernest Chinwo of ThisDay said they needed protection as the elections come close and appealed to thugs and their political pay masters to play by the rule and leave newsmen out of the matter. The Rivers State NUJ boss, Stanley Jobs, recounted the number of times that journalists have been attacked in the state on election coverage.

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