Kinsmen of the former militant leader, High Chief Government Ekpemukpolo, aka Tompolo, has asked the military, the Nigerian police and other security agencies to exercise restraint in the execution of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers.
According to Tompolo’s kinsmen, under the aegis of the Warriors Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group (WIPMG), the Nigerian military and the police should not use the directive of President Buhari to deal with ballot box snatchers to harass and intimidate riverine voters as the terrain is naturally difficult to navigate.
The chairman of the group, Chief Patrick Bigha, said one thing the military should know is that “we are in a democratic state and democracy has come to stay in Nigeria. The military must adhere strictly to its rules of engagement or code of conducts.
Bigha, in the Statement, said: “The terrain is even much more difficult during election periods as there is over 200% increment in the cost of transportation in the riverine areas now. The only means of transportation is by boats, and it is certain that voters must be transported from their living homes to their voting units by boats, either speedboats or slowly moving boats.
“This advice became imperative as there is already fear and tension in the riverine communities because of the incessant harassment and intimidation of the riverine dwellers by the Nigerian military in recent times. The greatest evil one can inflict on the riverine dwellers is to stop them from voting candidates of their choice during the elections as it is the only means for them to participate in the affairs of the country.
“One thing the military should know is that we are in a democratic state and democracy has come to stay in Nigeria. The military must adhere strictly to its rules of engagement or code of conducts.
“The riverine dwellers have realized that the bane of development in our country is the election of leaders as electing the wrong persons into positions of authority has contributed greatly to the present level of development in Nigeria, especially economic and infrastructural development of the riverine communities.
“For instance, the abandonment of the Escravos free trade zone (EPZ) project which comprises a gas city at Ogidigben and a deep sea port in Gbaramatu kingdom.
“The project was inaugurated by the former administration in March 2015. This is a project that would have employed about 150,000 personnel at the construction stage. This project would have helped to reduce the level of unemployment in Nigeria today, but it was abandoned by the current federal government as a result of the 2015 election, even though the project was largely driving by the private sector.
“Another example is the politicization of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, established by the former administration in May 2014. The university was almost written off by the current government, if not for the aggressive public outcry of Nigerians, and the university is the only good thing that has happened to the riverine communities in the Niger Delta region since the existence of this country.
“It is in view of all these happenings that we want to sincerely appeal to the military to understand the plight of the riverine dwellers so that they should be able to exercise their civic right unhindered”
Meanwhile, the Ijaw Youths from the nine states of the Niger Delta region under the aegis of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide has condemned the ‘shoot at sight’ order handed security agencies by President Muhammad Buhari against those involved in snatching of ballot boxes, describing such order as undemocratic and unpresidential.
The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), In a statement issued and signed in Yenagoa by its Secretary General, Comrade. Alfred Kemepado, faulted the president’s speech and further described the speech as undemocratic and less presidential.
According to the IYC, “The council and its members will not tolerate anybody within her territories who will do anything illegal including the snatching of ballot box to undermine the sanctity of the electoral process. However, he said that the masses’ desire and resolve to ensure credible, free and fair elections does not involve the promotion of undemocratic values.”
Comrade kemepado stated that the President’s speech has the capacity to instigate violence and make law enforcement agents take laws into their hands. He said Nigeria must be built and sustained as a country of law and order and not a country of jungle justices.
“The IYC cautioned President Buhari and other candidates to ensure that they don’t continue to heat up the polity at the expense of the large Nigeria because we cannot afford to win elections for politicians and lose our country.”
“Furthermore, the IYC scribe pointed out that the president must realize the place of his body language, which may have made it possible for his loyalists like Governor Elrufai to issue inciting and provocative statements like that of the shameful “body bag.”
He warned that the oil of the Niger Delta is not available to fund body bags but to promote the unity of Nigeria that would be subjected to restructuring for the benefit of all Nigerians.
To this end, he called on international bodies to come to the aid of harmless and willing electorates who are keen at expressing their franchise to get the needed change, so they are not shot at or butchered by the Nigerian military or police in the guise of harvesting ballot box snatchers.
The IYC scribe also reaffirmed the commitment of the Ijaw nation to align itself with the laws of Nigeria, and will resist any form of ballot box snatching and electoral violence. This they will do across party lines, as free and fair election is what all Ijaw Youths desire, which is for our collective National interest, and for the betterment of one Nigeria.
Comrade Alfred Kemepado used the medium to call on all Nigerians not to be discouraged with the current happenings, as this is the time for them to speak through the ballot, and not on social media, so they can hold their leaders accountable.
The IYC scribe urges President Buhari to act like the Nelson Mandela’s who at age and portfolio as his used their influence to build the democracy in South Africa and not subscribe to avoidable emotions and situations. No ambition is worth total instability and crises in this country.