Army-orchestrated violence in oil rich rivers state reveals presidential intent to employ battle force to annihilate the centre of opposition to their ruthless pacification plan for the entire Niger Delta. A historically conspiratorial UK government has feigned concern.
Vote tensions as Nigeria army blocks counting in volatile state
Dozens of Nigerian soldiers in armoured vehicles encircled a vote counting centre in the opposition-held oil-rich southern city of Port Harcourt on Sunday, in the latest flashpoint as violence overshadowed Saturday’s closely-watched regional elections.
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- Soldiers and policemen stand at the gate of the state headquarters of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on March 10, 2019. Photo by AFP
Fear has gripped residents of oil-rich Port Harcourt city in Niger delta region as state headquarters of Independent National Electoral Commission has been condoned off by dozens of fierce looking soldiers, anti-riots policemen and other complementary security agents who are jointly patrolling the city ahead of the much awaited results of the just concluded governorship and state assembly elections.
International observers expressed concern over the army action in the capital of southern Rivers State, where AFP reporters at the scene said soldiers blocked roads around the building, sparking a standoff with police who initially resisted with teargas but ultimately backed down.
The British High Commission in Abuja said it was monitoring the situation closely and urged authorities to allow Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff “to do their job in safety, without intimidation”. “Extremely concerned by reports, including from @UKinnigeria observers, of military interference in the election process in Rivers State,” the commission said on Twitter.
Counting is on going after elections on Saturday for governors in 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states, all state assemblies and administrative councils in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja and the INEC is expected to announce the results in the coming days.
It is the second time in a fortnight that the country has gone to the polls after presidential elections in February that saw President Muhammadu Buhari clinch a controversial second term in office.
Incidents of violence marred the poll, with reports of abductions and killings as well as concerns over vote buying and a strong military presence. Police on Sunday said three INEC staff were kidnapped in northern Katsina state in an ambush that left a policeman dead during voting on Saturday. And on Saturday authorities said a local election observer in southeastern Enugu state was killed by a stray bullet as police attempted to disperse demonstrators.
Regional elections are fiercely contested in Nigeria, where governors are powerful and influential figures, controlling state finances and responsible for key areas from education to health.
Adding to tensions in Rivers — a volatile state in the oil producing Delta region — is a court ruling barring any APC candidates from standing in the gubernatorial election because of procedural irregularities in the selection process. Incumbent PDP governor Nyesom Wike, who is considered a favourite to be reelected, has accused the military of complicity in the killing of 16 people in the Abonnema area of the state.
Africa Forum believes the Nigerian army-orchestrated violence in oil rich rivers state signals presidential intent to employ battle force to annihilate all opposition to the ruling party’s plans for ruthless capture and pacification of the entire Niger Delta.