The Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called on politicians and relevant stakeholders not to rubbish the military institution through unsubstantiated allegations of military interference in the just concluded gubernatorial elections.
The group made this call at a press briefing on Monday as it threw its weight behind the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai who promised an investigation into the series of online videos showing armed security personnel manhandling electorates in some flashpoint states of the crude oil rich Niger Delta region.
Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator of HURIWA, noted that the leadership of the Army had set a precedent of disciplining army officials who interfered in elections in the past, as exemplified in the sanctioning of 38 senior officers accused of election interferences in the general polls of 2015.
He said, “If this Army hierarchy had done this(in the past) 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 mechanisms.
“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, ” Onwubiko warned.
Onwubiko further cautioned against dismissing the claim by the military authority that politicians had kitted some thugs in army gears who went on rampage disrupting the polls in selected areas.
He noted that the military had already captured hundreds of thugs masquerading as soldiers picked up from some states such as Imo, Rivers, Ondo who now were being interrogated.
He said, “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 misdemeanor 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.”
HURIWA reminded Nigerians that: “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.” Onwubiko said.
HURIWA however suggested that the military should stay alert within thier quarters during election and should only be deployed in the event of an emergency that overwhelms the police based on an invitation from them. This it said would completely insulate the military from being misused.
HURIWA also advised the Army Chief to sanction commanders who fail to arrest fake soldiers interfering in the electoral process, a development that was undermining the image and credibility of the military institution.