Piqued by the spate of violence and killings that characterized last Saturday Presidential Election in Rivers State, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the State have warned they would lead mass boycott of next Saturday Governorship and State Assembly Elections in the State, if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), fails to explain why it used the military to prosecute the Presidential poll in the State.
Speaking at a press conference in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, the group, under the auspices of Rivers Civil Society Organizations, described the use of the military for the election in Rivers as callous and a declaration of war on unarmed innocent people of the State.
Chairman of the body, Comrade Sotonye George who read the statement to journalists, called on INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu to address the issue by making a categorical statement to reassure Rivers people that same action would not repeat itself in the March 9, 2019 rescheduled Governorship and State Assembly Elections.
The group warned that if INEC failed to make a categorical statement, explaining the rationale behind the use of the military in the election, they would mobilize the electorates to boycott the coming election, stressing that election boycott is civil disobedience which every aggrieved citizen is
constitutionally entitled to observe.
“We seize this opportunity to call on INEC Chairman to tell Nigerians why the military took charge of the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria and also reassure Nigerians that the military will not participate in the forthcoming Governorship and State Assembly Elections”, they said.
The Rivers CSOs blamed President Mohammadu Buhari for what he called desperation to hang onto power, a situation that prompted the unfortunate resort to use the military to wage a vicious war against Nigerians in the name of elections.
“Soldiers practically took over the conduct of the elections, leading to stoppage in distribution of electoral materials and snatching/hijacking of electoral materials, disruption of voting and chasing away of voters from some voting centers”, it said, listing the areas mostly affected to include Bonny, Emohua, Ubima, Ogoni, Eleme, Oyigbo, Okrika, Ikwerre, Akuku-Toru, Degema LGAs among others.
They also blamed the death of several persons including a youth corper to the unholy connivance of soldiers with APC stalwarts at the collation centers and polling units.
“Prior to the elections, we cautioned that the military has no business involving in an election as their constitutional duty is to defend and protect the territorial d, noting that a federal high court had laid a precedent when it ruled that it is unconstitutional and illegal to use the military for election duties.
integrity of Nigeria against external aggression”, the statement said, noting that a federal high court had laid a precedent when it ruled that it is unconstitutional and illegal to use the military for election duties.
While expressing disappointment on the election result declared by INEC for Rivers State, the group appealed to the international community to come to the aid of the helpless Nigerians.
They further demanded that those responsible for the heinous killings of Rivers people during the ill-fated Presidential election should be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.
Those who signed the statement which were dispatched to journalists during the briefing include: Comrade Sotonye George (Civil Liberties Organization); Comrade Karl Chinedu Uchegbu (Rivers Coalition for Good Governance); Comrade Meshack Uyi (Integrity Group); Comrade Clifford Christopher (UAD); Comrade Steve Obodokwe (CEMEDEC); and Comrade Justice Apakawari (ILESEN).
Others are Comrade (Rev) Sonny Johnson (CLO); Comrade Ipalibo Herbert Osokolo (Youth of Pan-Africanism); Comrade Sam Odueley (Save Youths Foundation) and Comrade Christie Iwezor (CDWCD).