Posted by News Express | 6 February 2019 | 607 times
A coalition of civil society groups on Wednesday raised the alarm about the stockpiling of weapons and the rising tension leading up to the 2019 election in the Niger Delta region and Bayelsa in particular. The groups spoke at a press conference at Lagos Airport Hotel jointly addressed by Comrade Bayo Obatughase Deputy National President Campaign for Democracy, Femi Lawson and Ologun Ayodeji of the Coalition Against Electoral Violence, and Barrister Isaac Atani of the Save Bayelsa/Save Niger Delta Group.
The coalition lamented that nearly three years after submission of a report on electoral violence to the relevant authorities, none of them, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Federal Government, Bayelsa State Government and other relevant security agencies as well as the international community have taken it upon itself to act on the report, which detailed the atrocities and extreme right violations, witnessed during the election.
They recalled the 2015 election, which the world witnessed an unimaginable height of violence, unleashed on the innocent people of the state, leading to the death of many, with valuable properties worth hundreds of millions, destroyed. The coalition took it upon itself to embark on a post-election assessment of the situation which eventually led to the production of a detailed report on the ELECTION VIOLENCE IN THE 2015/2016 BAYELSA GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION.
The report captured audio and visual recordings and testimonies of the victims of the violence that marred the conduct of election in Southern Ijaw local government and some other parts of the state, during the election.
The coalition said: “We witnessed a situation where harmless citizens were molested, attacked and harassed with a lot of complicity on the part of those, who ordinarily are supposed to protect them.
“As this crucial election gets closer, we have found it extremely imperative to inform Nigerians and the international community, about the likelihood of violence in some parts of the country, if the necessary checks are not undertaken by the Federal government and various authorities across our land.
“This clarion call becomes inevitable at this point, as we have come to the realisation, that elections should no longer be seen as wars and that whosoever engage in the destruction of properties and lives of our people, during the election period, is made to bear the consequences of his or her actions.”
The CSOs stated that they saw burnt down houses, cars and other properties as well palpable terror of victims, who are unable to return to their communities just for the fear of being attacked. The report captured testimonies of the victims and pictures of over 5 casualties including a baby that was killed during the period.
According to the coalition, “Very instructive here is the role played by notable politicians in Bayelsa State, among whom today is a member of the Federal executive Council, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the self-styled ‘Hitler of Ekeremor politics’ who during the December 2015 elections, lived true to the sobriquet as he led armed thugs in speedboats to unleash violence on some communities.
“However, we were shocked that such a man later made the list of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees now serves as a Minister in the present government. In fact, about two days to the Bayelsa State governorship re-run election in Southern Ijaw, chiefs and people of Ekeremor community expressed serious concern over the open threats of violence to lives and property by their kinsman and the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri.
“For further emphasis, this same Senator Heineken Lokpobiri who the then Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, had on national television called for his arrest and prosecution for electoral offences, after he abducted Youth Corpers conducting the elections and snatched ballot boxes to his personal residence during that National Assembly election that was conducted by INEC on April 9, 2011.
Equally indicted in the report, according to the Coalition of CSO’s is the activities of the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, who was also gravely complicit in the atrocities that were committed during that ill-fated election.
“Chief Timipre Sylva during his tenure as governor of Bayelsa State between 2007 and 2012 set up the infamous security outfit called Operation Famu-Tamgbe notorious for the extra judicial killing of citizens in the state.”
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