Emma Njoku and Tony John, Port Harcourt
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State has accused the Nigerian Army and the State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of plotting to rig forthcoming elections in the state.
The party made the allegation, yesterday, at a press conference organised by its stakeholders in eight local government areas in the state, at the party’s headquarters, along Aba Road, Port Harcourt.
The eight local government areas represented at the event include Akuku Toru, Andoni, Asari Toru, Bonny, Degema, Ogu Bolo, Okrika and Opobo/Nkoro.
In a statement signed by former deputy governor of Rivers State, Tele Ikuruon, the stakeholders specifically accused the General Officer Commanding 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sarham and the Commander State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), ACP Akin Fakorede of plotting to rig the polls in the riverine communities of the state.
The statement read in part: “We are peace loving political leaders of oil and gas producing riverine Ijaw communities of Rivers State, here represented by serving and former deputy governors, ministers, Speakers of State House of Assembly, national and state assembly members, commissioners, local government council chairmen and councilors, etc.
“The purpose of this press conference is to draw the attention of Nigerians and the international community of the evolving plan by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Jamil Sarham, and the Commander State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) ACP. Akin Victor Fakorede, to destabilize, rig and abort the peaceful conduct of the 2019 elections in the riverine communities of Rivers State.”
The PDP stakeholders said as security officers Sarham and Fakorede are expected to be neutral, honest and fair in the discharge of their duties to the nation, but alleged that “both men have profoundly signed on to the evolving plan to destabilise, rig and scuttle the peaceful conduct of the elections.
“Reports reaching us indicate that with absolute defeat staring them in its face, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has recruited and armed some bandits to enable it actualise its devilish plan to rig and/or prevent the elections from holding in all the riverine Local Government Areas of Akuku Toru, Andoni, Asari Toru, Bonny, Degema, Ogu/Bolo Okrika and Opobo/Nkoro.
“These bandits have been detailed to storm our communities in speedboats and attack, overrun, disrupt the voting process and destroy voting materials to such extent that would justify the total cancellation of the elections.”
The further alleged that in order to shore up support and enable the plot to succeed, the APC has connived with the duo of Major Sarham and ACP Fakorede to provide cover for the bandits who will allegedly be clad in police and military uniforms.
The PDP stakeholders also alleged that the bandits have been detailed to assemble a detachment of loyal operatives to work hand in gloves with the APC, to actualise the overall objectives of violently orchestrating low voter turn out in the entire riverine local government areas, where the PDP enjoys massive support.
“To strengthen the afore-mentioned operations, Major General Jamil Sarham has allegedly also directed the deployment of gunboats to patrol, block the waterways and prevent indigenes and residents from getting to their homes from Friday (tomorrow).
“Confirmed reports also show that Major Sarham and ACP Fakorede have penciled for arrest and detention the party chairmen of all the eight local government councils and other principal PDP leaders in our communities until after the presidential election.
“ACP Fakorede is not new in such ignoble roles in Rivers State elections.
“He did it in 2016, against the PDP during the national and state House of Assembly re-run elections, and was, accordingly, indicted by INEC.”
The group noted that Fakorede, who was posted along with others for election duties to Borno State, has been “surreptitiously” returned to Rivers State.
“As facts have shown, Major General Sarham and Mr. Fakorede are openly sympathetic to the APC, and pathologically biased against the PDP.
“We are constrained, therefore, to call on the international community, especially the United States, Britain and the European Union to bring to bear, maximum pressure on INEC and the Federal Government, to allow peaceful, free, fair and credible elections in our communities.
“We further request the international community to monitor the general elections in the eight riverine local government areas of the state.
“We strongly re-state that we have no confidence in the integrity and neutrality of Major General Sarham and ACP Fakorede as senior security officers and, consequently, request them to recuse themselves from election duties in Rivers State before they create avoidable crisis of limitless dimensions in our communities,” the PDP stakeholders said.
Also, the women chapter of Rivers PDP has raised the alarm over alleged influx of security agencies, particularly the military, in several communities, ahead Saturday and March 9 elections in the state.
Their reaction came barely 24 hours after the party’s campaign council accused the APC and the military of plots to cause crisis in the state during the forthcoming elections.
Coordinator of the women and State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Barr (Mrs.) Ukel Oyaghiri, who addressed the media, yesterday, said evidence abound that the rights of Rivers people would be infringed upon by security agencies during the elections.
Mrs. Oyaghiri said the women were worried about the hate speeches two chieftains of the APC in the state made, adding that neither the presidency nor security agencies have called them to order.