By Barrister Emma Wonodi
I totally demur to, and disagree with the current setting up of an Army Election Investigation Panel into the 2019 General Elections. This Panel, it’s further revealed, is to also investigate the recent alleged attempt to assassinate Gov Nyesom Wike of Rivers State by some soldiers in PortHarcourt.
From the gathered feelers, the Army Investigation Panel is expected to carry out a quasi- judicial exercise, by allowing mainly its personnel to state their roles in the said elections and decisions or findings reached at the end of the Panel’s sitting.
It’s the candid view here that, the investigative incursions to be made by the Panel into the highly censorios and sham partisan role played by the Army in the said Elections, particularly in Rivers State, would make a profanation of the hackneyed legal doctrine, expressed by lawyers and latinists as” nemo judex in causa sua,” This is translated to mean that” a man cannot be a judge in his own cause.”
Clearly, the Army which has received barrage of criticisms and strong strictures on account of the grossly destructive and partisan role its soldiers played in the said elections, cannot in the truest sense of fairness, turn round to claim to want to probe it’s negatively- impetuous role in that election saga.
Even as a precursor to rhe setting up of this Panel, the Army High Command without any iota of inquiry or investigation, had a few days ago, in a position that had a touch of finality, loudly exonerated soldiers from the wanton killings, blood- letting, maiming, torture, armed banditry and despicable malevolence unleashed by them, especially, on the helpless and hapless people of Rivers State. The Army Authorities further claimed that the purported soldiers who carried out these various acts of display of prestine bestiality, were political thugs in military uniforms.
I consider it a sad commentary on the National psyche of Nigerians, particularly, that of Rivers people, that this ignoble outing of the Nigerian soldiers was ostensibly carried out in order to rig the said Elections in favour of the self- styled political Czar of Rivers State- Mr CRA, and the candidate of this Rivers State political contrarian.
It’s a notorious fact , even available to the international community, that both in the Presidential and National Assembly Elections of 23rd feb 2919, and that of the Governorship and House of Assembly Elections of 9th March 2019 respectively, soldiers attached to Div 6 of the Nigerian Army, whose GOC is one Major- General Jamil Sarham, together with officers and men of the Federal Anti Robbery Squad(SARS), declared war on Rivers State, with the base motive of satisfying the unbridled ambition and political reflexes of this Abuja- domiciled, serial Rivers Gubernatorial candidates’ provider.
At the last count, close to 50 Rivers electorates have been mowed down, including a senior lecturer with Ken Saro- Wiwa polytechnic Bori, late Dr Ferry Gberegbe( a pdp collation agent), who was killed by SARS Police men, as well as several other Rivers citizens who have aexperienced outright discomfiture, by the nefarious activities of the rampaging soldiers and SARS policemen on those fateful election days.
This position taken by the Army Authorities in handing down a clean bill to its soldiers even before the setting up of the said Army Panel, is a clear pointer to the likely tendencious and pre- determined findings/ decisions, the Panel may hand down at the end of the day.
Given the command structure of the military, it’s contended that soldiers and middle officers of the Army who were the field officers that largely carried out the various electoral malfeasance, including snatching of ballot boxes and electoral materials, ( as presumably directed by their superiors),might not garner the effrontry to give evidence against their said superiors.
It’s important to point out the salient legal fact that ordinarily, the military, including the Army, are not supposed to be involved in the conduct of elections, or in matters connected therewith. Under section 217(2) 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended, the President has no powers to singularly deploy soldiers for elections, without the approval of the National Assmbly. This was the plank of the decision of the Federal High Court in Femi Gbajamabiala Vs Jonathan & 6 others, which said decision was later affirmed by the Court of Appeal. If soldiers must vote, the Federal High Court in Sokoto, (just two months ago, ie in January 2019), held that they must do so in their respective barracks.By a community reading of sections 217, 218 and 219 of the said 1999 Constitution, the President’s powers to deploy soldiers to any part of the Country is limited for the purposes of suppression of insurrection and to aid Police to restore order, where it has broken down. In the case of Rivers State, there’s nothing to show that there was insurrection or breakdown of law and order before or during the said elections, for which the regular Police could not handle. Similarly, there’s nothing on record to show that the National Assembly approved the said” declaration of war” on Rivers State, as shown by the eggregious outing of soldiers and SARS men in the state, as earlier mentioned.
I whole heartedly commend the people of Rivers State, for defiantly resisting this attempt by the Army, SARS policemen, other Security Agencies, the self- immolated Czar of Rivers State, his very few beleaguered minions and goons, from achieving electoral victory, through swift massive rigging and jiggery pokery. It is indeed, a shame to the Army and the said SARS Police in particular, to be sublimated to the political manipulations of one power- drunk politician.
Part of the recent Report of INEC’s Review Panel On the suspended collation of Rivers State 2019 Election Results, clearly decried the unfortunate role played by the Army and men of SARS, in the monumental acts of brigandage and reckless intrusion in the said electoral processes in Rivers State.
Despite the setting up of the instant Army Panel, the Army should note the fact that it is not easy to clean the proverbial Augean stable in a stygian chasm, as its men went too far “in terrorem,” ie in unleashing naximum terror on the people of Rivers State, in wake of the said 2019 General Elections in the state.
Let it be restated for the umpteenth time, that the God-given 8 years tenure of Gov Nyesom Wike, would forever live in the hallowed portals of Rivers history, as a regime that stood by the people, even in the most difficult times like the present one.
Giving all the foregoing, i consider it apposite and more in tune with the Rule of Law, better sense of justice and fairplay, for an independent judicial commission of inquiry to be put in place, under theTribunals And Commissions Of Inquiry Act, to investigate or probe the sundry acts of crass criminality and setting up of new parameters in election rigging, committed particularly by soldiers, SARS men and other persons.
The said proposed judicial commission, would, in the circumstance, do a better justice by collecting and collating relevant memoranda and evidence from the Army, Police, other security Agencies, as well as from members of the public. Such a judicial commission, it us further proposed, should be given the latitude to obtain evidence from soldiers in camera, so that junior soldiers would not be victimised by their seniors.
All assembled pieces of evidence in whatever form, would be made to pass thorough judicial scrutiny and preening lf the Commission, so as to properly arrive at a considered decision that should greatly meet the end of justice, within the tenets of the Rule of Law.
Hon(Barr) Emma Wonodi