The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Maj.-Gen. Jamil Sarham, has paraded Governor Nyesom Wike’s Commissioner for Urban Development and Physical Planning, Dr. Reason Onya; and the representative of Ahoada West constituency in Rivers House of Assembly, Nwanaka Okpokiri, for rigging last Saturday’s elections in the state.
The Camp Commandant of Government House, Port Harcourt, Oyoku Ifelle, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP); Major Akpoge Peter Ubah of 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt and thirty one others, including policemen, thugs and ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), including two women, were also paraded.
Maj.-Gen. Sarham paraded the 35 suspects Tuesday through 6 division’s Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Aminu Iliyasu, at a crowded news conference at 6 division, Port Harcourt on the discoveries and arrests made by troops of the formation, in conjunction with other security agencies, for electoral offences between February 22 and 23.
All the 35 suspects were handed over to the Deputy Commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of Rivers Police Command, Ahmed Kontagora, who represented the Rivers state Commissioner of Police, Usman Belel, at 5:50 p.m. Tuesday.
The Assistant Director, Public Relations of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Rivers, Violet Appolo-Ibizugbe, also insisted that no corps member died in the state during last Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly polls, contrary to insinuations making the round.
Appolo-Ibizugbe said: “Rivers State NYSC management has been inundated with the rumour of the death of a corps member during the last Presidential and National Assembly elections in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State on February 23. Management wishes to inform the general public that no corps member was killed before, during and after the February 23 elections.
“While we commiserate with the family of the late Mrs. Ibisaki Amachree, an INEC ad hoc staff member, who unfortunately died on her way back from electoral duties in Degema LGA, we wish to state that she was not a corps member and that NYSC, Rivers State did not lose any corps member during the February 23 elections.”
The GOC also disclosed that a lot of maneuvers by political actors were witnessed in the division’s Area of Responsibility (AOR), covering Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states, during last Saturday’s elections.
He noted that the maneuvers were normal in a democracy, but stressed that most worrisome and dangerous was the employment of political thugs by some desperate politicians to disrupt a legitimate national process for their pecuniary gains.
Maj.-Gen. Sarham said: “Equally of grave concern is the daring attempt by the Governor of Rivers State, Barr. Nyesom Wike, to compromise security agencies, particularly troops of 6 Division, 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 Nigerian Army and its command hierarchy of bias daily.
“Apparently, Governor Wike must have underestimated the Nigerian Army’s commitment to being professionally responsive in the discharge of our constitutional roles.
“The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, has overtime reiterated and demonstrated the Nigerian Army’s resolve to being apolitical, neutral and unbiased. He (COAS) has also left no one in doubt of our total and absolute loyalty to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the President/Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (President Muhammadu Buhari).
“No amount of cheap blackmail and unsubstantiated allegations will make us bulge. While we do not intend to take issues with any one, however, it has become expedient to bring to the notice of the general public the actual reasons behind Governor Wike’s attrition against the Nigerian Army and its leadership, with the hope that he will finally sheathe his sword and publicly apologise to the Nigerian Army, as we present the shocking discoveries.”
The GOC reiterated that on February 15 this year, “one Barr. Emma Okah” (Rivers Commissioner for Information and Communications) issued a statement, alleging that a very senior officer of the division attempted to tamper with INEC’s sensitive materials at the premises of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Port Harcourt.
He noted that a rejoinder was immediately issued by the headquarters of 6 division, which not only rebutted Okah’s allegation, but also demanded an apology from him within 72 hours or face legal action, disclosing that Rivers information commissioner had “arrogantly” refused to heed the advice.
Maj.-Gen. Sarham said: “On February 23, 2019 at about 8:45 am, following a tip-off on attempt by Governor Wike’s aides to induce and compromise troops deployed at the CBN, Port Harcourt premises, Major Akpoge Peter Ubah of 6 Division and four other police personnel: DSP Oyoku Ifelle (Camp Commandant, Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt), Sgt. Akanu Garba, Inspector Hycent Oboi and Sgt. Nketan Chucks, were arrested by a team from headquarters of 6 Division.
“Preliminary investigations discovered the sum of N2, 250,000 in a Range Rover car belonging to the DSP. Other items recovered are four INEC 2019 electoral tags, customised Rivers State Government House brown envelopes, while the sum of N500,000 was found in the Toyota vehicle belonging to Major Akpoge Peter Ubah, which he confessed was given to him by Rivers Governor’s aides, in addition to offer of a well-furnished accommodation for the period of his tour of duty.
“On the same day (February 23), at about 7 a.m., a member of Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Nwanaka Okpokiri, in company with Dr. Reason Onya, visited our troops’ camp at Akinima (headquarters of Ahoada West LGA of Rivers) and requested to be acquainted with the Commander of the troops at the location. Hon. Okpokiri offered the officer some amount of money he removed from his pocket, but the officer not only rejected the offer, but he sent the duo away.
“While the officer and his men were manning a check point at Mbiama Bridge (Ahoada West LGA of Rivers), a white Hilux vehicle, with a Rivers State Government registration number: L02-03RV RIVERS and eight occupants, was stopped for routine search and clearance. A carton and two 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’s ad-hoc staff or security agent.
“During the course of on-the-spot interrogations, Hon. Okpokiri and Dr. Onya appeared at the spot and tried to convince the suspecting troops that the vehicle is part of INEC convoy that was left behind and that the vehicle should be allowed to go, because the electorate was waiting. When the vigilant officer refused to be convinced, Dr. Onya immediately placed a call to Governor Wike and His Excellency (Wike) requested to speak with the officer, who declined and requested the governor to please call the GOC.
“After much resistance, the officer gave Dr. Onya his mobile number to pass to Governor Wike, which he did via Whatsapp message. Within ten minutes, Governor Wike placed a call to the officer.”
The GOC also played the recorded telephone conversation between the officer of 6 division and Rivers governor, with Wike promising to send money to the army officer, through the Rivers commissioner (Onya), who recently stepped aside during the building collapse in Government Reservation Area (GRA), Port Harcourt.