*Say Gov’s allegation against GOC 6 Division, a sharp departure from reality on ground
A Coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) has blamed Governor Nyesom Wike on the current security situation in Rivers State, saying he was not helping security agencies to curb the menace of insecurity pervading the state.
The group said its assessment of security situation in Rivers State showed that Wike “chooses personal and selfish interests rather than national security, peace and security of his people”, wondering why he should do that.
This was even as it said the allegations of attempted murder, gross human rights violations, arbitrary arrest, among others, leveled against the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 6 Division Nigerian Army, by the governor was not only false but also baseless.
The group, under the aegis of Coalition for Peace and Good Governance, (COPAG), said in a press statement, Friday evening that its position was informed by on-the-spot assessment of the communities of Rivers State as well as views expressed by both community leaders and other stakeholders during its just concluded visit to the state.
The statement explained that the fact-finding visit by a seven-man team to Port-Harcourt, was by the Executive Director of Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative (GOPRI), Amb. Melvin Ejeh, and Dr. Isaac Pepple of Action Against Injustice (AAI).
“COPAG described the allegations of Governor Nyesom Wike of River State against the General Officer Commanding 6 Division Port-Harcourt, Major General Jamil Sarham and his men as the highest form of falsehood, and it is unbecoming of an executive governor of a state.
“We wonder why a governor will choose personal and selfish interests rather than national security, peace and security of his people”, the statement read.
COPAG explained that it decided to visit the state for first-hand information given the recent allegations against the GOC 6 Division in particular but the Nigerian Army as a whole by the governor.
COPAG,in the statement signed by Ejeh, stated: “We were worried by Wike’s continued allegations against the person of Major General Sarham and the Army under his Command in River State to the international community, Nigeria’s civil society organizations, the press among others which bother on the attempt on his life, gross human rights violation, aiding of a political party, arbitrary arrest of Rivers State Government officials.
“We immediately swung into action with a view to carrying out independent and detailed investigation to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of all the allegations and report back to Nigerians.”
“We met all the relevant stakeholders and visited all communities mentioned hence the following facts emerged that the allegations of attempted murder, gross human rights violations, arbitrary arrest, and aiding of a political party by Governor Nyesom Wike of River State against the GOC 6 Division is not only false but a sharp departure from the reality on ground”, the stressed in the statement.
It added: “The check point mounted by Army which Governor Wike complained about was mounted before Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, which is about 100 meters or more to the Government House and found that the intention was to assist an agency to prevent a financial crime which was reported to the agency.
“There is no direct or indirect attack or threat on the life of the governor of River State at any time by the GOC or the Army.”
Commenting on the allegation of arrest of River State Government’s officials by the army, the group said it found out that ” the only arrests that were made was the arrest of a serving commissioner in the state who was trying to bribe an Army Major at Ubiama Checkpoint, and a serving Senior Special Assistant to the governor somewhere around CBN for the same offence of attempted bribery of military men on lawful duties.”
“The other arrest were persons who violated the ban of movement placed by River State Government on the eve of the last election between 12am to 6pm, and all the suspects were promptly handed over to appropriate security agencies for prosecution”, it added.
Also commenting on governor’s allegation of human rights violation against the army, the group said: “Nothing can be far from the truth like this allegations, all our findings proved that the Army in Rivers State under the Command of General Sarham has conducted itself in the most orderly, civilized and professional manner with strict adherence to human rights protection in spite of the high level provocation by criminals and other state actors.”
“Governor Wike’s allegations against General Sarham, GOC 6 Division and the Army is baseless, calculated, malicious and the highest form of falsehood which is meant to demoralized and discredit the officers and men of the division to pave way for criminals and illegality to thrive during the 2019 elections.
“The Governor’s constant attack on the GOC is because of his non- compromise stands on issues of security of lives and properties.
“We have credible evidence that the GOC refused every form of inducement to compromise his stands on professionalism and justice”, the CSOs said.
Dwelling further on allegation of rights violation, the group said: “On human rights violations, there is no single evidence of human rights violation by the officers and men of 6 Division”, adding “even when about four soldiers, including a lieutenant was killed in some communities, the Army applied professional approach in arresting some of the suspects instead of reprisals which our old Army was known for.”
“During our tour of the state, we discovered that all the soldiers at the checkpoint at various locations conducted themselves in civilized and professional manner worthy of emulation”, it further said.
The group further said: “Our findings further revealed that the major problem the GOC is having is because of refusal to compromise operational, moral, and integrity standards against the wish of River State Government.”
“What we discovered in Governor Wike’s allegations is a frustration of someone who was prevented from using the Nigeria Army to perpetrate electoral fraud”, it claimed.
COPAG, according to the statement, commended the GOC 6 Division, Major General Sarham and his men for “their professionalism, and integrity”, and “called on all Nigerians particularly the people of Rivers State to ignore the spurious, baseless and political allegations by Wike and go about their normal businesses.”