A press briefing organised by the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt turned tumultuous on Tuesday as suspects brought for parade protested and accused the military of framing them.
The press briefing addressed by the army spokesperson for the 6 Division, Aminu Iliyasu, targeted Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, whom the army accused of compromising security agents and masterminding violence to gain advantage in the elections.
“Of grave concern is the daring attempt by the Governor of Rivers State Barr Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to compromise security agencies particularly troops of 6 Division NA 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 NA and its command hierarchy of bias daily,” said Mt Iliyasu.
“Apparently, Governor Wike must have underestimated the NA’s commitment to being professionally responsive in the discharge of our constitutional roles.”
Among those paraded were four security agents, including one army officer AP Ubah, a major, and four other police personnel, Oyoku Ifelle (Camp Commandant Rivers State Govt House), Akanu Garba, Hycent Oboi and Nketan Chucks. They were allegedly caught with rifles, INEC tags, N2.2 million and a customised Rivers Government House brown envelop containing N500 thousand.
The major, Mr Ubah, was said to have confessed to receiving the N500,000 from a Governor’s aide and being promised well-furnished accommodation for the period of his tour of duty.
But the four policemen protested as they were paraded. They said the INEC tags found on them were those issued to accredited security operatives working during the elections.
“How can you arrest police officers with guns and call them exhibit/” One of them queried. “You should call police to identify their rifles.”
But the briefing became more chaotic when Rivers State Commissioner for Urban Development Reason Onya, a state lawmaker Lokpobiri Wanaka, and two INEC ad hoc staff were brought forward to be paraded. They refused to stand before the ballot papers the army said were exhibits and shouted down army spokesperson Mr Iliyasu to force through their point to the press.
Mr Iliyasu said Mr Onya and Lokpobiri had appeared at a troops base in Akinima to induce an officer last Saturday morning before elections open that day.
He continued, “Incidentally, while the Officer and his men were manning a Check Point at Mbiama Bridge, a white Hilux vehicle with a Rivers State Government Reg No.L02-03RV RIVERS and 8 occupants was stopped for routine search and clearance. A carton and 2 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 Ad-hoc staff or security agent.
“During the course of on the spot interrogations, Hon Opokri Wanaka and Dr Reason Onya Williams earlier mentioned above 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 electorates are waiting.
“When the vigilant officer refused to be convinced, Dr Reason immediately placed a call to Governor Wike and His Excellency requested to speak with the officer who declined and requested the Governor to please call the GOC. After much resistance, the officer gave Dr Reason his number to pass to Governor Wike which he did via Whatsapp message. Within 10 minutes Governor Wike placed a call to the officer.”
The recording of the alleged conversation between Mr Wike and the army officer was played, with the governor appearing to seek cooperation of the officer.
The third batch of suspects said to be thugs rounded up during the elections were brought with their legs chained. They also protested and were asked to be taken back as Mr Iliyasu could not continue.
The build up to the elections had seen tension peak in Rivers State as the army and Mr Wike engaged in accusations.