Army must participate in polls, PDP insists

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Organisation on Thursday disagreed with the rival All Progressive Congress (APC) on the need to deploy soldiers to maintain peace during the May 28 and April 11 general elections.

armyThe ruling party’s position came on the same day when the Nigerian Army assured of its readiness to be involved in the 2015 general elections based on the provisions of the law, warning political thugs to stay away from the exercise.

In its statement from Abuja, the PDP accused the presidential candidate of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, of setting a stage for electoral violence with his recent utterances, warning that bloodletting would not be condoned.

Director, Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, who noted the position of the party at a press conference in Abuja, said its insistence on the use of soldiers for the election monitoring is in spite of the judgments of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, and the Federal High Court, Sokoto. Both courts gave judgements against the use of soldiers for the election.

Justice R.M. Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Sokoto, had in a judgment delivered on January 29, 2015 barred the use of the Armed Forces in the conduct of elections.

Similarly, the Court of Appeal, which heard the appeal arising from the petition filed by the APC against Fayose’s victory in the June 21, 2014 governorship election in its judgment on Monday, also condemned the use of members of the Armed Forces in the conduct of future elections in the country, saying it is illegal.

It said such actions constituted a violation of both the constitution and the Electoral Act.

The Appeal Court reiterated that the use of Armed Forces in the conduct of elections was in violation of Section 217(2)(c) of the Constitution and Section 1 of the Armed Forces Act.

It cited and relied on a judgment delivered by Justice R. M. Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Sokoto.

The appellate court therefore barred the use of the Armed Forces in the conduct of future elections in the country as such, it said, constituted a violation of both the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

Fani-Kayode, at the press conference, stressed that said the opposition being mounted against the planned deployment of soldiers for the election by the APC was out of fear that its plan to intimidate and harass voters and rig the election would not materialise.

He said the utterances of Buhari in recent time suggest clearly a plan to cause mayhem which the Federal Government would not allow to come to pass.

He noted that there was crisis in the past caused by utterances of Buhari which cost some Youth Corps Members their lives, adding that such would not be allowed again.

His words: “The PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation wishes to take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Nigerian people and members of the international community to the subtle threat of violence in a statement by General Muhammadu Buhari, at the APC stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja on Tuesday.

“General Buhari said that the patience of the APC and its leaders were on test.  One wonders what he means by that and what he and his supporters intend to do once that patience runs out.

“In an AFP news report of Friday, February 6, 2015, he was asked if he would accept the outcome of the presidential election no matter how unfavourable.  Listen to his answer: “I am not going to lose; so I won’t answer that question.”

“Again, only yesterday, Wednesday, February 18, 2015, in an interview on ARISE Television, General Buhari was asked what his reaction would be if he loses the election.  His answer was: “We shall see.”

“As far as we are concerned, these are ominous and subtle threats to unleash violence on the Nigerian people and all those that he perceives are his enemies in the event of his losing the election,” he stated.

The 2 Brigade Commander/Sector 2 Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, Brigadier General Koko Essien, speaking with newsmen, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, said the military and other security agencies would not condone any act of political thuggery during exercise and after the elections.

Essien observed the level of volatility in the security situation in Rivers State and disclosed that the military was strategising to ensure that the 2015 election was conducted without hitch.

The brigade Commander urged the people of the state to feel free to come out and exercise their franchise on the day of election, promising that adequate security measures would be put in place.

“We will be involved in the election to the extent that is allowed by law. We are having meeting with INEC and we are going to support INEC based on the requirement of the law. We are going to support the police based on the areas they (police) are lacking. If the law says we are not going to be at the polling booths, we will not be there,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Council Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has threatened to boycott the coverage of the 2015 if adequate security was not given to its members.

At a press conference in Port Harcourt, chairman of the council, Opaka Dokubo, said in view of the dastardly incident in Okrika where the APC rally was attacked by gunmen leading to the death of a police officer while others sustained injuries, journalists in the state may stay at home on election day.

“We have to protect the lives of our colleagues. The security agencies and the leadership of all the political parties must ensure the security of journalists covering the elections,” he said.

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