Startling revelations emerged yesterday at the Rivers State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal when the military admitted that the governorship poll in the state was characterized by violence perpetrated by political thugs.
The military further told Justice Suleiman Ambrosa-led tribunal that violence marred the process, saying that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were rescued by military operatives from the claws of the political thugs who entangled them.
Testifying on behalf of the military at the resumed hearing of a petition by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, Captain Garba Sani, who led a deployment of the military to maintain law and order during the poll, told the tribunal how members of his team encountered thugs in virtually everywhere they visited.
The APC and Peterside (the petitioners) are challenging the election Governor Nyesom Wike.
The appearance of the military at the tribunal to give evidence followed a subpoena issued against the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Gen Tukur Buratai, by the tribunal at the instance of the petitioners.
Led in evidence by the lead lawyer to the petitioners, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), the witness confirmed the arrest some of the armed thugs, saying that the thugs were handed over to the police for further actions.
He said, “We arrived at Tai Local Government on April 10 to ascertain the level of security but we encountered thugs, over 200 in a particular place and some of them carrying matchete about”
“I was able to arrest one of them with their cutlasses and handed him over to police who came in an operational truck. There were a lot of road blocks mounted by thugs and as we are clearing one, the hoodlums were erecting in other places”
“In some places, there were attempts to conduct elections but I did not see any particular place where election took place”.
Under cross -examination by the lawyer to Wike, Chief Okey Wali (SAN) the witness informed the tribunal that he led a team of 38 soldiers deployed to the place by the military authority.
He denied insinuation that the military aided election rigging, adding that the army is a disciplined organization and will not indulge in such a crime of aiding a political party to rig. He also denied ever shooting to scare away voters.
The witness claimed that as the team leader, he wrote a report on his finding and that the report was in possession of the military.