The Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, South South Zone has issued a statement on the conduct of security agencies during the December 10 Rivers Rerun poll.
You may read the report, reproduced in its entirety, below.
Civil Liberties Organisation
CLO, South South Zone
21 Igboukwu Street
D\Line, Port Harcourt
Rivers Rerun Election: Blood for Ballots.
Report on the conduct of the, Police, the DSS, the military and other Security Agencies During the Polls.
“Law enforcement officials shall at all times fulfil the duty imposed upon them by law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession”.
Article 1, UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, Adopted by General Assembly resolution 34/169 of 17 December 1979.
The United Nations code of conduct for Law Enforcement Officials makes clear what the role of security agencies should be towards citizens especially during elections. But unfortunately the Nigeria security forces made up of the police, army, department of state security, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, failed the litmus test woefully, during the repeat rerun elections in Rivers State..
Recall that on December 10, 2016, residents of rivers state trooped out enmass to elect their representatives at the national and state assemblies, not minding palpable fear of violence that has become part of elections in the state in the past. The election was the second rerun of the 2015 general elections which was nullified by election tribunals. Following the nullification which was dismissed in several quarters as a miscarriage of justice, the Tribunal ordered a rerun of the election.
The first attempt at a rerun, March 19, could not produce conclusive results as the election was cancelled in several areas as a result of irregularities. Vacant seats at both the National and state Assemblies have to be filled, hence, the second rerun election was fixed for December 10, several months after the first one. The December 10 rerun was marred by irregularities, violence, and open robbery of election materials at gun points.
This report focuses on the roles of security agents deployed by the government vis avis the irregularities and electoral violence recorded.
A Fight to finish
Some politicians who have influence over what they termed federal might saw the rerun as a fight to finish and a do or die affair. They stormed the state with enough federal might to win the election by all means. At a mega rally organised in Port Harcourt, few days before the election day, a serving minister who had during the March rerun boasted that he would flood the state with military though not a defence minister, to ensure victory for their party, had told members and supporters of his party, the APC to consider the election as a fight of their lives.
A rally which was supposed to be an avenue for parties to market their manifestoes, became an avenue to incite violence as key leaders of the party charged their members and supporters to shoot, kill, push their opponents. “if they shoot you, dodge and shoot them back”. They assured their supporters that they came prepared with the full weight of federal might.
On its part, the PDP vowed to resist the federal might even with the last drop of their blood. Members and supporters of the party were charged not to be intimidated by the threats of their opponents.
And as if the federal government was part of the fight to finish agenda, 28.000 policemen were deployed to the state for an election that did not cover the entire state (eight LGAs). They included regular policemen, Mobile policemen, and the dreaded special anti-robbery squad, SARS. In addition to the large number of policemen, thousands of combat ready soldiers, NSCDC, DSS and para military agents, all heavily armed. Also deployed were a large number of security dogs(animals) as well as party thugs, cultists and militants. It was alleged that security personnel, including soldiers and SARS, were attached to key politicians and cult leaders, from whom they took orders.
Few days to the election, the military embarked on a show of force parade along some major roads in port Harcourt. Many military trucks, both big and small, as well as ugly looking armoured personnel carries, all filled with heavily armed and fierce looking soldiers, were involved in that movement.
Early warning signals deliberately ignored
The tragic outcome of the rerun election, including the conducts of security operatives did not come as a surprise. There were early warning signals which put the integrity of security operatives in serious doubt.
Before the election, a Lagos based NGO had issued a statement after a security threat assessment conducted in the state. The group noted that findings from the Security Threat Assessment revealed that the re-run election was not going to be without security challenges and raised serious concerns about the commitment of government to adequately deploy security across the State in an orderly, impartial and neutral manner that will represent the duty of the State to protect citizens. It also raised concerns about the capability of INEC and integrity of security agencies to act professionally and impartially during the election and maintain a neutral disposition towards all political parties.
Prior to the rerun election, the CLO, South-South had issued a statement calling on the Federal government to keep the military out of the election, saying that the military has lost its professionalism. According to the organisation, the Commander in chief and Chief of Army staff should please save the military from this shame and disgrace of being turned into tools in the hands of politicians for snatching election materials, protecting cultists and militants recruited by politicians, intimidating opposition, and subverting the will of the electorate. They should keep the soldiers away from the rerun elections as their presence can only embolden certain politicians and their thugs who have vowed that they would use federal might to rob Rivers people of their mandates. These warnings were ignored.
Prelude to the military operations.
On the eve of the election day, the military drafted to Tai LGA of Ogoni embarked on mass arrest of people, targeting those believed to be members and supporters of PDP. Community sources disclosed that about 40 PDP members were arrested from Sime and Bunu communities in Tai LGA. No reason was given for the arrest.
Mr Dumnwe Igbe from Bunu Tai was allegedly shot during the military operation at the compound of Hon Silver Ngba a contestant in the state house of assembly seat. He was rushed to hospital in Boro bara town where he died the following day. Also arrested by SARS during a similar operation was the former Caretaker Committee Chairman of Khana Local Government Area, Hon. Sunny Bekanwa, a PDP chieftain. He was later released.
In Gokana, the operation was carried out by a combined team of soldiers, SARS and cultists, some of whom were given military uniforms to wear. When the team invaded Barako community, Gokana LGA, they shot sporadically before they whisked away scores of persons including one Chief Awindi Dughor, a chieftain of the PDP to an unknown destination. Sources said Mene Derek’s hotel at Wiyakara in khana was used as a detention and torture centre as well as an operational base of the combined team of military, SARS and cultists.
Welcome To December 10
On December 10, which was the rerun election day, security operatives including military, DSS, Police, SARS, as well as paramilitary threw caution and professionalism into the gutters as they openly and brazenly offered themselves to be used by politicians as tools to subvert the will of the electorate.
From their conducts, it was clear that they were on a mission to use federal might to subdue and conquer the state. The soldiers moved about, in the company of politicians and political thugs, harassing and brutalising hapless people in their bid to snatch election materials, including result sheets, at gun point. They seem to have forgotten that as national security operatives, they have the duty to protect the citizens. They were more concerned about protecting politicians and their thugs.
In some places such as Abonnema, when they arrived polling units, they would shoot into the air to scare voters away to enable them grab election materials. Attempts to prevent them from snatching the materials attracted death penalty.
The electoral materials for, Sara1, Sara2 and Kalakama in ward 12, Okrika LGA were hijacked by the military and members of SARS at gun point. Several gunshots were fired.
A PDP polling Agent in Rumuigbo Obio/Akpor LGA identified as Jolly Boy was arrested, stripped naked and shot on the leg by security agents moving around with an APC leader in the area. His offence was that he challenged the politician when he wanted to snatch materials meant for them.
In Bodo, Gokana LGA, Official Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polling agent was shot in the head by a security officer who was attached to the All Progressives Congress – APC House Of Reps candidate Maurice Pronen, who is also from Bodo. His crime was that he allegedly refused to hand over a ballot box.
At Etche, in Etche LGA, one Mr Charles Anyawu said to be the S.A on Youths at NDDC was said to be holding guns in his 2 hands, with uniformed soldiers providing cover for him. It was alleged that he shot 2 MOPOL officers and the Driver of Jerome Eke the PDP House of Representatives Candidate. It was further alleged that Charles also shot and injured his younger brother. He was later arrested, although many feared that the arrest may be to put him in safe custody.
Apart from hijacking materials violently, soldiers and other security operatives were allegedly involved in thumb printing and ballot printing. At Gokana for instance most of the materials meant for the area were diverted to the houses of APC senatorial and House of Representatives candidates. Heavily armed soldiers and other security operatives allegedly filled the compounds to provide cover for election manipulations. In addition to protecting those contracted to fill the ballot boxes, soldiers and other security men were alleged to have participated in the voting.
After the voting, the war was shifted to collation centres. Security operatives led by soldiers and SARS were alleged to have moved from one collation centre to another trying to violently swap result sheets at gun points. At some places, it was alleged that they chased away officials of PDP, youth corpers, observers and the press and took over the collation works from INEC officials. Fresh results different from what were recorded at polling centres were prepared and taken to collation centres for swapping.
At Isiokpo, for instance, our sources disclosed that the entrance to the collation centre was blocked with Armourd personnel carrier and battle ready soldiers. A serving Minister was said to have stormed the INEC Collation Centre at isiokpo, headquarters of ikwerre LGA, with over 200 soldiers and Armoured Personnel Carrier. He was also accompanied by the Commissioner of Police in charge of Election identified as David.
The soldiers and the Commissioner of Police forcefully gained entrance where they drove away the live crew of the African Independent Telecision(AIT), other print and broadcast journalists, agents of political parties and observers.
The Commissioner of Police in charge of elections, Mr David allegedly beat up the Caretaker Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area, Mr Samuel Nwanosike before dragging him on the floor to bundle him out of the venue. The invasion by the minister and his soldiers attracted protest from community members as many women besieged the area in protest.
In port Harcourt, It was alleged that the Rivers State Commander of Special Anti-Robbery Squad ( SARS) Akin Fakorede, personally led the invasion of the Rivers East Senatorial District collation centre at the Port Harcourt City Council to rewrite the results. .
Akin Fakorede allegedly mercilessly beat up the Rivers State Commissioner for Urban Development who served as the PDP Agent, Mr Chinyere Igwe dragging on the floor before whisking him to an unknown detention and torture centre .
On sighting the approaching convoy of the governor, SARs Commander allegedly also opened fire on the approaching convoy.
Even after leaving the scene, Akin Fakorede and his team shot repeatedly around the Government House , Port Harcourt round about.
At Emohua LGA collation centre, army units in four Toyota Hilux trucks, led by one Col. Ali stormed the centre, shooting sporadically into the air. In the resultant melee, A final year student of University of Port Harcourt lost his life. The army stopped announcement of collated results an attempted to falsify figures in favour of a political party.
At the compound of the APC senatorial candidate in Gokana, which was turned to a collation centre, INEC officials were said to have been beaten up mercilessly by soldiers for hesitating to announce the forged result, knowing that elections did not hold in many parts of ogoni area.
Article 7, of the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law enforcement officials, states clearly that “Law enforcement officials shall not commit any act of corruption. They shall also rigorously oppose and combat all such acts”.
But this is contrary to what obtained in Rivers State during the rerun polls. Given the roles played by the military and other armed security personnel and the number of different categories of weapons used freely by both state actors and non state actors, the December 10 rerun election can best be described as a low intensity military operation. The invasion by soldiers, the intimidation, harassment and brutalities meted out on hapless electorate are crimes against democracy and the rule of law. We hold the security, INEC, federal government responsible for the violence witnessed during and after the rerun. The federal government was repeatedly alerted of the impending violence, but it chose to play politics with the lives, security of Rivers people.
We believe that the people killed may not have been killed if the government has done its duties dispassionately. Among those killed was a police DSP, mohammed Alkali and his driver. DSA Alkali was beheaded at omoku by political thugs. The killers, when apprehended by the police, were said to have confessed that they were working for an aide of a serving minister. The leader of the gang was said to have told the police that the DSP was murdered because they thought he was working against their party.
*Federal government should probe the activities of the soldiers and other security operatives during the rerun;
*the murder of people should be investigated and treated as criminal act of murder;
*politicians who used soldiers to brutalise people should be tried and be appropriately sanctioned;
*the INEC leadership should be prosecuted along with the politicians and security for serial murder
CLO is a foremost pioneer human rights organisation in Nigeria. It has branches across the 36 states of Nigeria and zonal structures across the 6 zones. This report relied on information from people at the field who witnessed the actions.
Karl Chinedu Uchegbu
UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, Adopted by General Assembly resolution 34/169 of 17 December 1979
Law enforcement officials shall at all times fulfil the duty imposed upon them by law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession.
In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.
Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.
Matters of a confidential nature in the possession of law enforcement officials shall be kept confidential, unless the performance of duty or the needs of justice strictly require otherwise.
No law enforcement official may inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, nor may any law enforcement official invoke superior orders or exceptional circumstances such as a state of war or a threat of war, a threat to national security, internal political instability or any other public emergency as a justification of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Law enforcement officials shall ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required.
Law enforcement officials shall not commit any act of corruption. They shall also rigorously oppose and combat all such acts.
Law enforcement officials shall respect the law and the present Code. They shall also, to the best of their capability, prevent and rigorously oppose any violations of them.
Law enforcement officials who have reason to believe that a violation of the present Code has occurred or is about to occur shall report the matter to their superior authorities and, where necessary, to other appropriate authorities or organs vested with reviewing or remedial power.