Rivers Re-Run Election Investigation: A Need for Caution
The Association of South-South Media Professionals, ASSOMP, hereby calls on the federal government to ensure it treads with caution, on the matter of the ongoing investigations by the police into the allegations of malpractice in the last parliamentary re-run elections in Rivers State.
While the association, a non-governmental, non-partisan team of media practitioners support in its entirety the commitment to fight corruption by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, we advise that the government exercises caution as not only residents of the state, but Nigerians in general and the world at large are watching.
It would be recalled that the joint panel of the Police and the Department of State Security, DSS, set up to probe the December 10, 2016 re-run elections in Rivers State, said last week that the sum of N360 million was given as bribe by the state government to 23 electoral officers to influence the election.
The state government had swiftly reacted to the allegations describing them as “shameful, defamatory, and reckless in the extreme,” claiming that it was a sinister political move to smear the name of the governor.
We are aware of the tendency of security agencies to grandstand in an attempt to please the government in power, but the government has to be careful in managing such tendencies so that the man on the street, the common man especially, would continue to see government as unbiased and fair to all.
Our interactions with residents of the state reveal that Riverians are all watching carefully the actions and comments of the police in the on-going investigation.
These residents, most of who do not belong to the political class, and as such see things from a balanced standpoint, free of political interests and sentiments, are generally tired of the activities of politicians and their cronies which has negatively affected the unity and development of the state. Any perceived politicisation of the investigation would therefore further impugn the fairness of government especially at the national level.
It should not be forgotten that most of the issues in the Niger Delta today especially the renewed militancy stem from the perception issues raised by the actions of the federal government.
The very recent visit of the acting president, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the promises he made is one step in the right direction towards straightening the already frayed relationship between people of the region and the federal government, and in putting in proper perspective, most of the negative perception so far created.
While we want to totally align with the federal government in its fight against corruption, including electoral malpractices, and the recent interest shown in addressing the problems of the region, we warn that any politicisation of serious matters like this investigation would not be in the best interest of peace.
We therefore advise the federal government to ensure that it impresses upon the joint investigation panel to be seen to be fair to all and not spare anyone involved in electoral malpractice irrespective of political affiliation.
We on our part as an association of journalists from the region will continue to carry out our constitutional duty of being watchdog to the society as we support any move towards entrenching peace, unity and accountability in the region.