THE Nigerian Army has declared that it will be involved in the 2015 general elections based on the provisions of the law. It also warned political thugs to stay away from the polls and should not attempt to interfere with the electoral exercise.
Two Brigade Commander/Sector 2, Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, Brigadier General Koko Essien, told journalists in Port Harcourt, yesterday, that the military and other security agents will not condone any act of political thuggery during exercise.
He explained: “We will be involved in the election to the extent that is allowed by law. We are having meeting with the INEC and we are going to support INEC based on the requirements 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.
“We have had incidences of political thuggery. Different political groups have carried out certain actions that are inimical to the smooth conduct of the upcoming elections. Besides that, there has been some increase in the level of kidnapping on our waterways and sea piracy of course,” Essien lamented.
He stated that the military is worried by the spate of violence in Rivers State, adding that the military, as well as other security agencies were strategising to ensure that the 2015 elections were conducted without hitch.
Essien, who appealed to the people of the state to feel free to come out and exercise their franchise on the day of election, assured that adequate security measures would be put in place to ensure that voters were not molested or harassed by political thugs and hoodlums.
He assured: “First of all, to make sure that people are able to live and go about their business and secondly, to reassure the population that come March 28 and April 11, 2015, people should feel very free to vote the candidates of their choice.
“The security services and, specifically, the military will not condone any act of political thuggery or any action by anybody in the state aimed at frustrating well meaning citizens from going out to vote during the elections.
Essien stressed: “On the elections, we have a mandate to support for the election to provide security both on land and on the waterways based on the provisions of the Constitution. We will do everything within our means to ensure that people are safe and vote without intimidation.”
The Brigade Commander also stated that the military was ready to fight cultism, kidnapping and sea piracy within the nation’s waterways before, during and after the elections.
Responding to a question, Essien observed that a lot of stolen crude oil was being refined with illegal refineries, along the creeks. He expressed dismay that oil thieves were now blowing up oil facilities. He assured that the JTF would continue to combat existing threats in furtherance of its aim to protect the nation’s oil installations.
“Pipeline vandalism and oil theft to some extent have reduced. Some go into blowing up pipelines so that if they don’t have the oil, government will not have it too. A lot of the crude that are being stolen are being refined in the illegal refineries.”
Essien emphasised: “The JTF has a mandate and that mandate stated clearly its objectives. People are so sophisticated now that they can do underwater welding. So, it means that based on existing and prevailing threats, we have to re-strategise.”