Law News
Hijacking, shootings aborted Rivers gov poll, army tells tribunal

The Nigerian Army again on Thursday told the Rivers State Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja how the April 11, 2015 governorship election was aborted by hijacking of electoral materials and sporadic shootings in four local government areas in the state.

Four officers, who appeared before the tribunal on Thursday, on the strength of the subpoena served on the Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said they led separate army patrol troops in Abua/Odual, Ikwerre, Gokana and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Areas of the state.

The witnesses were Captain Sadiq Abubakar (leader of the patrol troop in ‎Abual/Odua); Captain Fred Bala (leader of the patrol troop in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni), Isa Al-Makura ( leader of the troop in Ikwerre) and Captain Jeremiah Salihu (leader of the troop in Gokana).

The subpoena served on the Chief of Army Staff was obtained from the tribunal by the All Progressives Congress and its candidate in the election, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who are, by their petition, challenging the declaration of Governor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party as winner of the poll.

The witnesses testified before the Justice Mohammed Ambrosa-led tribunal‎ on Thursday, painting pictures of tense environment ignited by sporadic shootings with the poll aborted by widespread hijacking of electoral materials before accreditation of voters could commence in most of the polling units in their areas.

They maintained during cross-examination by counsel for the respondents – ‎Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) for the Independent National Electoral Commission; Mr. Emmanuel Ukala (SAN) for Wike and Mr. fedayo Adedipe (SAN) representing the PDP – that there was no evidence of conduct of election in their various areas on April 11.

Earlier on Wednesday, another captain of the army, Garba Sani, ‎who led an army of patrol troops in Tai Local Government Area during the election, appeared before the tribunal on the strength of the supboena served on the Chief of Army Staff, testifying that election did not hold in the entire area on April 11.

With the army officers’ appearance in the tribunal, the petitioners at the end of the Thursday’s hearing had called 39 witnesses.

The army officers, who were led in evidence by their lawyers, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN) and Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), denied allegations leveled against them by the respondents’ lawyers that they appeared before the tribunal in order to help the APC.

Captain Al-Makura, who patrolled Ikwerre LGA with 30 soldiers, said he visited all the parts of the area, including Omerelu, Ubima, Apani, Alu, Ozuaha and Isokpo‎, the local government headquarters, and never noticed anywhere voting took place on the election day.

He said, “In Ozuaha, roads were barricaded and on sighting our patrol vehicles the hoodlums who mounted the barricade ran into the bush. We received calls and on getting to some polling units, the INEC ad hoc staff told us that some hoodlums came and beat them, collected electoral materials and ran away.

“I never saw any electioneering taking place in any of the wards.”

The witness, who was deployed from 101 Battalion in Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, Borno State, said, “That same day, we started hearing gunshots in the town. I had to move my men to see if we could arrest those who were firing the shots. At Okiri Street to be precise, we picked 13 shells on the ground.

“In the morning of the election, there was still gunshots at the local government headquarters. There was distribution of electoral mat‎erials at the INEC office but I can tell you that before they got to their destinations they were hijacked.”

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