Irked by the deployment of soldiers during the last presidential and national assembly elections, Southern Taraba Communities of Wukari, Takum and Ibi have threatened to boycott Saturday’s governorship and state House of Assemblies elections should soldiers be deployed again for the poll.
The communities alleged that soldiers deployed in the state during the March 28 elections frightened and intimidated voters and allowed room for malpractices.
They said the army, rather than help make the elections smooth and fraud-free, were used to rig the elections in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The communities cited incidents where voters were openly threatened by trigger happy soldiers deployed in Wukari and Takum, leading to “rigging of the results” in the presidential election.
Fielding questions from journalists in Jalingo, the Taraba state capital, the President of Jukun Community, Benjamin Bako, accused the military of aiding the PDP in the alleged electoral fraud.
“We were shocked to notice that soldiers were manning polling booths, intimidating us with guns. Even in Takum they shot people, so if things will continue unabated I am telling you, we will not allow people to come out during the forthcoming elections.
“This is democracy, people should be allowed to vote candidates of their choice,” Mr. Bako said.
Another community leader, Bello Kwararrafa, said there were instances where agents of rival political parties were abducted, manhandled and forced by soldiers acting on the orders of the Federal Government to lie prostrate on the ground.
“Armed soldiers were used by the PDP as aides to the collation officers. There was no collation of results at the ward levels as prescribed by the Electoral Act. All the collating officers and presiding officers were directed to go and submit their results at the local government level from where they collected all the results from the booths in the presence of soldiers,” Mr Kwararrafa alleged.
Also, the Social Democratic Party governorship candidate in the state, David Kente, named Wukari, Takum and other places as some of the worst zones of alleged electoral fraud.
Mr. Kente said apart from “unprecedented rigging”, the areas also witnessed abduction of agents of rival political parties, who were manhandled by soldiers.
He criticised security agents for barring opposition party agents from entering the collation centre in Wukari, while giving the PDP officials unfettered access into INEC premises.
“The soldiers pointed machine gun at me, that I should leave the place or else I would be shot, so to avoid crisis I left.
“Soldiers were deployed at polling stations, preventing party agents,” he alleged.
But when contacted the Takum Unit Commander, who led soldiers during the elections, Obinna Egemule, a lieutenant colonel, denied the allegations.
He said, “They wanted to cause violence, so that the elections would not take place. I prevented them from doing that.
“The armoured tank was stationed at INEC office because they threatened to burn down the INEC office. So all the allegations are baseless,” Mr. Ejemole said.