The Human Rights Writers Association, HURIWA, has waded into the controversy trailing the activities of the Army during the Saturday governorship polls, especially in Rivers State.
The group called on politicians and stakeholders not to rubbish the military institution.
HURIWA also urged the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai to investigate the series of trending online videos which appears to indict some armed security forces on a number of serial electoral offences and for instigating violence in Rivers Bayelsa and some of flashpoints in the crude oil rich Niger Delta region.
HURIWA, in a statement on Monday by its coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, pointed out that the leadership of the Army has already established a good and qualitative antecedent as a no nonsense hierarchy and will in the not too distant time sanction about 38 senior military officers who underwent investigative and military prosecutorial trial over their alleged interferences in the year 2015 general polls.
It added that “If this Army hierarchy had done this it can always do the needful now that it has become imperative for it to separate the few bad eggs from the professional institution of the military if they are found guilty by the internal investigative mechamisms.
“But we must be careful not to run down the military institution which we took over 60 years to build. It is usually more difficult to build but much easier to destroy.
HURIWA said the claim by the military authority that there were incidents of fake soldiers that were deployed by politicians during the governorship polls should not be dismissed with a wave of hands since there are verifiable evidence that indeed hundreds of suspected fake armed men masquerading as soldiers were picked up in Imo, Rivers, Ondo and other areas and are currently being interrogated.
It added, “We urge Nigerians to remember that the institution of the Nigerian military is created by law to serve public interest and so must be preserved and insulated from undue politically tainted allegations that may not stand the test of time.
“We are not unaware of some allegations by some governors in the Niger Delta accusing soldiers of collusion to undermine democracy, but we must give the Army the benefits of the doubts and assist the military institution to embark on holistic probe with the objective of preserving their political neutrality and to build an enviable professional institution that all of us and our children yet unborn would be proud of.
“We must not allow our temporary and unbridle quest for political power to lead us into the temptation of running down such a formidable institution like the Nigerian Army because of the alleged malfeasance and misdemeanour of a few undesirable elements who may have derailed from the time honoured ethical and legal principles clearly listed out by the Chief of Army Staff on the need to abide by Rules of engagement in internal security operations.
“We have a written proof that the Army has a mandatory manual on rules of engagements in internal miitary operations in line with best global practices.
“The Nigerian Army said it got credible intelligence that kitting of political thugs with military uniforms and arming them to impersonate soldiers.
“We have seen photographic evidence in HURIWA of these verifiable allegations by the Army.”
Recall that the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sagir Musa in a statement said thugs were sent to carry out crimes in furtherance of the activities of their political bosses.
HURIWA stated that the military’s version of the scenarios should be given a benefit of the doubts because for instance the Imo State Police Command on Sunday paraded 103 suspects who allegedly instigated violence and various electoral malpractices during the Governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections held in the state on Saturday.
Recall that the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 9, Umuahia, Wilson Inalegwu, who is on election duty in the state, had also said the suspects were arrested at various parts of the state.
Inalegwu said the arrests of the suspects were carried out in conjunction with other security agencies.
The AIG said a team of crack police officers had been instructed to take over the investigation process.
He listed some of the suspects as Onyekachi Okeh, Success Ugochukwu, Ikenna Anochili, Uchenna Okwuoma, John Okechukwu and Collins Amadi.
HURIWA also suggested that the military should be restricted within military institutions and facilities during elections with a view to be rapidly deployed to flashpoints of electoral violence based on invitation from the police if the police is overwhelmed. This it said will completely insulate them from being misused. HURIWA also asked the Army Chief to sanction commanders on ground who cannot show cause why they allowed fake soldiers to undermine the image and credibility of the military institution.
Besides, HURIWA asked that some politicians accused of abusing their privileged positions by allegedly parading about during election with armed military/police should be arrested and prosecuted.
HURIWA pointed to media reported facts and allegations which emerged on Sunday on how uniformed and plain-clothes security operatives loyal to the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, allegedly battered some ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.