Court bars army from Rivers polls
• INEC distributes materials • Saraki urges peaceful exercise
Ahead of tomorrow’s rerun national and state legislative polls, a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has restrained the military from deploying its troops to conduct, monitor and supervise the election.
Justice George Omereji gave the order following a suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Rivers State chairman of the party, Felix Obuah.
The ruling came as Governor Nyesom Wike yesterday accused the Police High Command of a plot to arrest Obuah 48 hours to the elections, describing the alleged plan as politically motivated and aimed at giving an advantage to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has taken delivery of electoral materials from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and has commenced distribution.
Justice Omereji of the Port Harcourt High Court issued an order restraining the Chief of Army Staff from deploying troops for the rerun polls. He ordered the PDP to serve the judgment on the military for them to comply.
The judge ruled: “That an order of interim injunction be and is hereby made restraining the 1st (Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi), 5th (INEC), and 6th (Government of Rivers State) respondents from the use of deploying of the 2nd (Chief of Defence Staff), 3rd (Chief of Army staff) and 4th (Brigadier General, Steve Olabanjo) Bridage Commander, Amphibious Brigade, Port Harcourt respondents whether by themselves, their agents, servants, officers, operatives or privies to conduct, monitor and supervise the state and National Assembly elections in Rivers State on 19 March, 2016.
“An interim order is hereby made restraining Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Brigade Commander, 2nd Amphibious Brigade, whether by themselves, their agents, servants, officers and operatives or privies from interfering with the applicants’ right to freely participate in the government of Nigeria either directly or through free chosen representatives, threatening to arrest, harass, intimidate, torture, incarcerate the applicants and their members during the rerun elections for the state and National Assembly on 19th March, 2016.”
Justice Omereji hinged the court’s decision on a judgment by the Appeal Court in acase between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and others in 2015 detailing the non- involvement of the Armed Forces in elections. “Leave be and is hereby granted the applicants to issue and serve the originating motion of the jurisdiction of this Honorable court on the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff and the Brigade Commander of Second Amphibious Brigade and INEC at the Federal Capital Territory, FCT,” the judge said.
Wike said by declaring the Chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Area, Sabomabo Jackrich wanted a few days to the elections, the police may have been influenced by political considerations. He alleged that the police brought in officers from Abuja to disobey the court order restraining security agencies from arresting PDP leaders before the elections.
Wike described as unfortunate reports credited to President Muhammadu Buhari on the violence in Rivers State, noting that the president never contacted him for an explanation on the security situation in the state.
The national leadership of the PDP warned that dire consequences would follow any attempt by the APC to push its alleged plot to impose a state of emergency in Rivers.
The party said it had also rallied all its formations in the state to stiffly resist by all means necessary in a democracy any move by the APC to scuttle the Saturday’s polls.
The PDP leadership in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh yesterday said “the party is privy to a grand design by the APC to orchestrate violence in the state with a view to truncating the elections.
“We are aware that the orchestration of violence is designed to serve as stimulus for the planned imposition of a state of emergency to enable the APC to forcefully take over the state which it failed to get through the ballot box. We also know the design to unleash violence is behind the recent infamous call by APC spokesman in Ondo State, Omo’ba Abayomi Adesanya for emergency rule in Rivers State.”
But from the APC camp came yesterday condemnation of an alleged call by Wike for global surveillance of the poll, describing it as an affront to the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The party, in a statement by its National Secretary, Malam Mai Mala Buni also expressed concern over what it termed Wike’s fresh reckless statements, including alleged death threats on the INEC Commissioner, Mrs. Amina Zakari. APC particularly viewed Wike’s petition to the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), Africa Union (AU) and the governments of about 50 countries demanding “global surveillance” for the Rivers rerun election as an affront to the sovereignty of the Nigeria.
APC expressed confidence in INEC and security agencies’ ability to deliver peaceful, free and credible supplementary election billed to hold tomorrow.
And irrespective of the grave security concerns about the rerun polls, the Minister of Transportation and former governor, Chibuike Amaechi, has said the reign of terror in some local government areas that led to senseless killings would not be tolerated, as the security agencies had been directed to ensure the safety of all before, during and after the elections. Amaechi made the comment when he led APC campaign in Igwuratain Ikwerre Local Government.
Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Dr. BukolaSaraki has urged the various stakeholders in the rerun elections to ensure that the exercise is free, fair, credible and violence- free. In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu in Abuja, Saraki said it was high time the country moved away from turning election into an event for bloodletting.
“Election days are supposed to mark the renewal of mandates and advancement of democracy which has been rightly defined as the ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’. Therefore, it is trite that no position or interest being canvassed during the poll is worth the blood of any Nigerian.
“It is time to put an end to unnecessary waste of human lives during electioneering . What we have lost to various conflicts across the country in recent time is not only unfortunate but unacceptable. We cannot afford to deepen the malaise we suffer as a nation,” he said.
Saraki specifically appealed to the security agencies deployed for the polls, officials of INEC, candidates, political parties and the electorate to adhere strictly to rules and regulations underpinning the conduct of elections so as to prevent any breakdown of law and order.
He urged the security agencies to be civil and firm in dealing with the people, INEC officials to ensure free, fair and credible elections and the people of Rivers State to be peaceful and orderly before, during and after the elections.
“There is certainly nothing we can gain from attacking our brothers and sisters during an election. Besides, no meaningful development can evolve in an atmosphere devoid of peace.
“This is the more reason every stakeholder in the Rivers State rerun elections should contribute to ensure peace so that those who will emerge from the elections as representatives of the people can find an environment conducive enough to serve the people,” he stated.