Army To Elections Tribunal: Voting Didn’t Hold In Four Rivers LGs

votingClaims by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that elections held in all parts of Rivers State during the April 11 governorship poll was punctured on Thursday by the Nigerian Army, which said that elections were disrupted in Abua/Odual, Ikwerre, Gokana and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government areas of Rivers State by hoodlums.

With yesterday’s submission, the number number of local governments the Army said people were not allowed to vote has risen to five. On Wednesday, the Army said there was no voting in Tai Local Government.

Captain Garba Sani, who led troops in Tai Local Government Area during the election, testified that election did not hold in the entire area on April 11.

Four Captains, who led soldiers on election duty in the four local government areas, testified the Justice Mohammed Ambrosa-led Rivers State Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja.

The captains said the heavy presence of armed hoodlums at every polling centre in the four local governments prevented officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting the election and the electorates from voting.

The four officers appeared before the tribunal following the subpoena served on the Chief of Army Staff, Maj.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.

The subpoena was obtained from the tribunal by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in the election, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who challenged the declaration of Governor Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the poll.

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

In his testimony, Captain Al-Makura told the tribunal how his troops fought to repel attacks from unidentified criminals who attacked polling units repeatedly.

He said most of the polling stations in the local government were attacked by armed gangs which took electoral materials and disappeared with them into the bush.

According to the army captain, corps members who served as INEC adhoc staff were brutalised when they resisted the thugs who carted away electoral materials.

He added that electoral materials meant for the election were diverted as they disappeared immediately on arrival at the local government headquarters.

The army captain, who patrolled Ikwerre Local Government Area with 30 soldiers, said he visited all parts of the area, such as Omerelu, Ubima, Apani, Alu, Ozuaha and Isokpo the local government headquarters, and never noticed anywhere voting took place on the election day.

“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”, he said.

The witness, who was deployed from 101 Battalion in Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, Borno State, added: “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 were 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”.

Captain Salihu, the second witness, told the tribunal about the breakdown of law and order in Gokana, a situation that necessitated the deployment of Armoured Personnel Carriers from Mopol 56, Sakpenwa to the flashpoints.

Under cross-examination, Captain Salihu affirmed that his team provided security on the day of the election in the council, which consists of 17 wards.

“I was at the INEC office in the morning when they brought the election materials and the armed men came and started shooting. I did not respond to the shooting because of collateral damage”, Salihu said.

He recalled how the shooting became so intense, even with the presence of his troops. But to avoid unnecessary loss of lives; they decided not to return fire.

The army captain alleged that the situation was so bad that even collation at some point took place at a police station. He added that his patrol also encountered dissatisfied members of a community, who were protesting the absence of electoral materials and their inability to vote during the election.

“In the course of my patrol, I received a call from a primary school in Mogoh. On getting there, there was shooting from across the fence. We responded and the shooters were shooting as they withdrew. We were able to pull out the INEC permanent and ad hoc staff and took them to INEC office”, he said.

The story was the same in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LG as election materials were hijacked from INEC ad-hoc staff shortly after they were distributed at the INEC office at the council headquarters in Omoku on the day eve of the election, Captain Bala, who said he had been in in the area since January because of incessant cult activities, told the tribunal.

Captain Abubakar said he led a team of 20 soldiers to patrol Abua/Odual during the election. He said he received many calls from people about incidents of election materials theft from various polling units.

“I received calls from INEC staff that their electoral materials had been hijacked by hoodlums. We kept receiving such calls and we tried our best to retrieve the materials but we could not. We received distress call from Okana. Close to their town hall, we rescued some indigenes, and we took them to police station for safekeeping”, Abubakar said.

The army captains, who were eye witnesses, having served as commanders, were in agreement over uncontrollable violence, snatching of electoral materials, intimidation and absence of proper election.
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. Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) representing the PDP – the officers insisted that there was no evidence of conduct of election in their various areas on April 11.

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

As at last night, the petitioners had called 39 witnesses.

The hearing continues today.

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  • 15th July, 2015
    OPEN LETTER TO MR. PRESIDENT

    DR. OGBONNAYA ONU’S OBSESSION FOR POLITICAL APPOINTMENT.
    RE: CAMPAIGN FROM SGF TO CABINET MINISTER

    It is on record that Igbo of South East are not known for political desperation. But the way and manner, His Excellency Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu has been going about in the pursuit of his ambition for the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF) and now a Cabinet Minister in the young All Progressives Congress, (APC) federal government creates such impression. Indeed many sane Igbo men and women are beginning to see the former Governor of old Abia State as one who is set out to ridicule and destroy the hard-earned reputation of the hardworking and enterprising Igbo people both at home and in the Diaspora.

    Our people, Ndigbo; are known for the value they place on self-worth. As such hardly could you see them throwing themselves at people with reckless abandon. On the contrary, one fails to comprehend the level of desperation and obsession that has suddenly enveloped Dr. Onu in recent times, over his quest to occupy the office of the SGF recently vacated by another Ebonyi man, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and most recently his sudden switch in pursuit of the office of a Cabinet Minister shortly after Mr. President announced another person in the name of Engr. David Lawal. To say the least, Dr. Onu’s nervous search for the lowly position of SGF and now a Cabinet Minister is quite unbecoming of an elder statesman like him.

    Abandoning reason and decorum in his rabid quest to clinch the SGF and or any other Federal position at all cost, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu has brought himself so low to be involved in many ridiculous and shameful actions in the recent past. Penultimate week, precisely on the 24th of May, 2014, Dr. Onu was treated to a reception by the Imo State factional Gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) in the last general election, Mr. Okey Ezeh. The lean and malnourished crowd that hurried to that regretful gathering took turns to address Dr. Onu as SGF to his shameful admiration. Daily Sun Newspaper of Wednesday June, 3rd, 2015 had at page 29 reported the event by describing Dr. Onu in the very first paragraph as the SGF designate. It did not bother Dr. Onu that Imo State is an APC controlled state and as such organizing such event without the involvement of the APC ruling party in the State tends to expose the party as one without cohesion in the zone.

    Again in his desperation, the former Governor could not note the likely embarrassment such announcement could pose to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, whose honour and discretion it is to announce the SGF of his administration. Moreover, does it not appear to Dr. Onu that by accepting the adulation as SGF-designate, he may be giving the impression that he could easily divulge official secrets if eventually appointed SGF any other Federal appointment? This indeed is not in our character as Igbo!

    And, a day before the Owerri sad incident, precisely on 23rd May, 2015, Dr. Onu was said to have instigated some frustrated and disgruntled PDP and Labour Party members to a rally at Abakaliki in the guise of receiving the decampees into APC even without involving the APC state working committee in the state. But Dr. Onu who may have seen the event as one likely to shore up his otiose clout and popularity, gave tacit support to the deceitful insinuation to the dissident Labour Party and PDP decampees that they will take over the State structures, which made them to create a parallel office at a venue where Dr. Onu received them. The fact that Dr. Onu attended the event without the State party Executives, exposes his disregard for due process, decency and sanity. And to massage his vaulting ego, virtually all the speakers at the occasion took turn to address him as the new SGF. Has Onu become like the King wearing new clothes just because he wants to be SGF? And now that Mr. President has appointed competent hands from another zone of the country, Dr. Onu should therefore bury his head in shame.

    Yet, as if that was not damning enough, the social media went viral on Saturday, 30th May, 2015 reporting that Dr. Onu, has been named as the new SGF by President Muhammadu Buhari. Each of the online platforms that reported the contrived event claimed that the news came from the APC situation room. It took the intervention of the National Secretariat of APC to denounce that pejorative piece of information. The National Secretariat stressed that the official website of the party was hacked into by desperate individuals, who used the facility to plant the fake report. Though there is nothing wrong in one pursuing an appointive position, it is painful to note that the channels Dr. Onu and his army of attention-seeking opportunists happen to choose for their efforts offend good taste. If nothing else, the good image of Ndigbo is at stake here. We may be charged for collective guilt if none of us could cry out against these shameless tactics that tend to cheapen us before respectful society.

    Suffice it to say that even if the president has confided in Dr. Onu that he will be appointed SGF, decorum and good taste demand that he should give the President the honour of making the promise public instead of ambushing him or making the president helpless. There is no iota of doubt that this is the best approach to a serious issue such as the appointment of the SGF or any other Federal appointment in a government that promises change. Why this needless desperation that could throw spanner to the works? It is for such display of unbridled ambition that one trader was forced to ask rhetorically whether Ndigbo are cursed or we are the cause.

    What appears as the most pitiful show of shame was that with the support and encouragement of Dr. Onu, some idle men and women of easy virtue sewed uniforms under the aegis of Onu Solidarity Forum, (OSF) and trooped to Abuja to wait his swearing in on June 3, 2015. Again we may ask who notified Dr. Onu that he was going to be sworn-in on that very day. Is anybody taking advantage of Dr. Ogbonnia Onu’s desperation to take Ndigbo for a ride or has Onu suddenly developed symptoms of intermittent alienation of intellect caused by the delay in appointing him to a public office after 25 years he was sacked from his brief sojourn at Abia State Government House? Gifts and donations have been sent across and money extorted from unsuspecting but gullible well-wishers in the name of supporting the reception for an appointment that has now been given to another person from another zone. It is very worrisome that Dr. Onu continues to create divisions within the APC in South East by allegedly sponsoring fictitious reports to suggest that Governor Rochas Okorocha is pushing his in-law when “the name of Onu was the name on everyone’s lips” for the SGF.

    Dr. Onu is back at it again. According to Ajayi Temitope a Column writer who claimed that Dr. Onu had a 35 minutes telephone chat with one of his confidant and a senior friend in the early hours of 28th August, 2015. According to him Dr. Onu told him how vain Nigerians are. He narrated how his house was like mecca the previous day in Abuja with no space for people to move around in anticipation that he would be announced as the SGF. In his house were Igbo professionals and influencers who came according to him with list of those he should appoint as head of MDAs since the office of the SGF is assumed to coordinate this. However when someone else name was announced his house became empty within minutes. Now Dr. Onu is a lonely man as all those who have been coming around have all disappeared. Here we expect Dr. Onu to mention these Igbo professionals and influencers who flocked his house on that very day.

    Again Dr. Onu revealed that President Buhari had given him the honour of taking him into confidence few days before the announcement of the SGF on why he will not be made SGF because he has something better for him (Dr. Onu). Temitope stated that Onu informed his friend that Mr. President told him that people attach much importance to SGF and Chief of Staff because of the bastardisation of the system over the years and destructive influence peddling which got worst under Jonathan Administration. President Buhari told Dr. Onu that under his presidency, SGF and COS won’t become Almighty that everyone must worship. He further told him that he want to return government and bureaucracy to the days of yore when honour and integrity were the watch words not corruption and influence peddling, therefore SGF and COS won’t coveted position again. He continued by saying that Mr. President told him that he has reason for appointing certain people to certain position and all will manifest in due season. But chief among his reasons is the need to protect certain individual from under pressure and making enemies for nothing sake. For example if he gave him (Onu) SGF position Igbos will hate him for life because Onu won’t be able to give any one appointment as that function will no longer be under the office of the SGF. Many people according to Onu wanted Col. Hameed Ali to be EFCC chairman or COS but the President taught otherwise. What Onu want us to believe as South Easterners is that the Position of SGF and COS are death sentence where those appointed should start crying rather than rejoicing.

    Dr. Onu further revealed that President Buhari told him that he knows where he want to use him and it will be what will bring glory and honour to him. And that SGF is not a big position contrary to what people think. President Buhari according to Onu informed him that it was part of failure of governance under Johnathan that made Anyim Pius Anyim powerful and to arrogate power to himself. SGF for Buhari according to Onu is an office to present Memos for the Cabinet and the President and to him Dr. Onu should serve better use than that. Dr. Onu according Temitope told his friend that he was so happy with the president after the explanation.

    In truth, the South East caucus of the APC recommended Dr. Onu alongside other eminent sons like Senator Chris Nwabueze Ngige and Prof. Anwuka for the position of SGF. But why Dr. Onu was dancing all over the place with the claim that the position has been granted him is unfathomable. As a disciplined political party that is mindful of its reputation, APC has come clean to say that appointive positions are not zoned in the party. By scrambling for the position for which there are millions of qualified South Easterners, Dr. Onu unwittingly provided the reasons for the appointing body to take the position elsewhere. And now that the position has been given to another zone who should we blame, our collective silence or the indiscretion of one of our elder statesmen? Not that alone, people of other geopolitical zones now see us as greedy and shameless opportunists that can do anything to get a mere government appointment.

    Just recently Dr. Onu pleaded with Igbo to be patient with Buhari. One therefore wonders why he does not want to exercise patience in his quest to occupy appointive position. Or is he a Pharisee that does not do what he preaches? Just recently, on the 13th of July, 2015, Dr. Onu sponsored a group of charlatans who called themselves members of Ohaneze Ndigbo claiming to have endorsed him as the national leader of APC, as if APC is an appendage of ethnic cultural organization. Also, in his desperation and morbid quest to continue to lurk around the corridors of power, Dr. Onu sneaked into the venue of the last NEC meeting in breach of the party’s constitution as he is not qualified to have attended such meeting not being a member.

    If one may ask, what did Dr. Onu do now to warrant the flurry of honour awards? Even Abia State University has to remember that a former governor is qualified for an “awoof” honourary degree! Why now that the President is busy thinking about how to set up a team to put Change into action? Why did these new cheer leaders not publish the values and credentials of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu when it should have helped to garner votes? Do Nigerians need these puerile campaigns now after the elections have been won and lost? Was it not for such indiscretion and deceptive shows that Nigerians voted out the PDP? Why should a people engage in empty ‘atilogwu’ dance to ambush, arm-twist and force the hand of Mr. President to choose a perceived chameleon and dissembler into his cabinet? If Onu is as good and deserving of such an appointment, why do we need to scheme for it? Mr. President knows the caliber of man or woman he wants as his Cabinet members. He knows Dr. Onu very well; at least he knows that the one-time governor of Abia State was also the erstwhile chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party, (ANPP). Mr. President even knows that the name or title of Dr. Onu as former national chairman did not earn him votes during the March 28, 2015 election whether in Ebonyi or elsewhere in the country. As such President Buhari does not need the precipitate manipulations of the media or even dubious awards to recommend Onu for an appointment. Nigerians are full of expectations of great things from the President. Distractions from those scheming for political appointment would not help our president to deliver on the mandate!

    Finally, Mr. President has not forgotten how Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu sold the soul of ANPP to His Excellency Dr. Shekarau, the former governor of Kano and other few governors of the then ANPP controlled States for a duplex Building (pot of porridge) in Asokoro, Abuja. This same action is believed to have pushed President Muhammed Buhari out of ANPP to form a new Party CPC barely 6 months to the general election in 2011
    It is a true moral question that, if appointive offices are for service, those who merit them should wait to be called. Nobody takes this honour unto himself unless he has an ulterior motive. Ndigbo are not beggarly by any means, so let nobody make us what we are not.

    __________________ ____________________
    Hon. Chidi Duruji Comrade Obiora Nwakalor
    Chairman Secretary

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