Elections May Not Hold in Liberated Towns, Villages

By Olalekan Adetayo

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah, on Tuesday hinted that elections may not hold in North-East communities recently liberated from Boko Haram insurgents.

Minimah told journalists after a Security Council meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja that government structures needed to be restored in the town and villages before issues about elections could be discussed.

The presidential election is billed for March 28 while governorship and National Assembly polls will take place on April 11.

The COAS however said that the Independent National Electoral Commission needed to re-assess the situation in the communities before a final stand could be taken on elections.

The Chairman of INEC,   Attahiru Jega, had briefed the meeting attended by all heads of security agencies and relevant ministers of the state of the electoral body’s   preparedness for the   general elections while the security chiefs gave updates on the anti-terrorism war.

Minimah said, “I am not competent to speak on that (elections) matter. INEC is still there, INEC has to re-access the situation and evaluate because the areas have been liberated, but I can also tell you that not all structures of governance have been reinstated.

“They will need to be reinstated so that citizens can go back to their areas and it is then I think they can execute their rights as voters.”

When probed further, the Army chief said he did not know how soon the structures could be reinstated.

When further asked whether the operation could be completed before March 28, he replied , “It is our wish and we pray God gives that to us, but war is war. War sometimes is not fought on some platforms of permutation.”

The COAS disclosed that after reviewing the North-East operations particularly in the last three weeks, the council renewed its confidence in the Nigerian Armed Forces and commended the troops.

He said, “You know Yobe and Adamawa states have been liberated completely and we look forward to the reinstatement of structures of government and governance.

“I am also sure you know that in Borno State, out of the 27 local governments, we have three local governments remaining: Abadam, Kalabaldi and Gwoza and we are optimistic that with time, we will liberate those LGAs.”

Despite the success recorded however, Minimah said there was no news yet on the over 200 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok, Borno State, almost a year ago.

He said, “There is no news on the Chibok girls for now. In all the liberated areas , we have also made enquiries but the truth is when the terrorists are running away, they also run with their families.

“Those we have   come in contact with have not made any comments suggesting that Chibok girls were there and taken away.

“But we are optimistic that as they are losing the   areas captured by them,   we will get further details on that.”

The Army boss also denied media reports that   security agencies   were being assisted in the war against terrorism by mercenaries.

“There are no mercenaries employed by anyone. What we have are advisers and instructors and they are all over the world. Whenever you have new equipment, the equipment comes with contract and the contract includes maintenance and the technicians that come with them are those that we hire,” he said.

Jega had emerged from the council meeting at about 2.20pm after briefing the members on INEC’s   preparations for the elections.

He was accompanied to the meeting by two top officials of the commission.

When State House correspondents asked him about the meeting, the INEC boss simply said, “I believe it went well.”

He did not answer subsequent questions relating to the use of card reader during the elections and INEC’s level of   preparedness as he made his way out of the Presidential Villa.

The meeting which started a few minutes after 11am had in attendance, the Vice President Namadi Sambo; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation,   Pius Anyim; the Chief of Staff to the President,   Jones Arogbofa; the   National Security Adviser,   Sambo Dasuki; the Attorney-General of the Federation, Muhammed Adoke (SAN); the Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan; the Minister of Interior,   Aba Moro; and   Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali.

Others  were the Chief of Defence Staff,   Alex Badeh; the Chief of Naval Staff, Usman Jibrin; the Chief of Air Staff,   Adesola Amosu; the Inspector-General of Police,   Suleiman Abba; as well as the heads of the Department of State Services, the National Intelligence Agency and the Chief of Defence Intelligence.


Source: The Punch Newspaper