Army Chief Minimah Doubts If Elections Will Hold In North East As Jega Declines To Comment
After about five hours of security meeting at the presidential villa today, Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Kenneth Minimah expressed doubts elections will go on as scheduled in Northeast region of the country, a development that may make the coming general elections inconclusive and consequently set the country on fire.
While trying to shift any likely blame on INEC, Minimah said it is the Independent Electoral Commission and not the military that will decide if elections will hold or not in the recently liberated areas from terrorists sect, Boko Haram in the North East.
He said though the territories have been re-taken from Boko Haram, government structures still needed to be reinstated before any tangible thing can take place in the zone. Minimah said at the meeting, council gave a vote of confidence on the military following the successful anti-terrorism operations in the North east with only three local governments in Borno state remaining to be liberated from the clutches of Boko Haram.
According to him “Council reviewed the North East operations, particularly, in the last three weeks and Council renewed its confidence in the Nigerian Armed Forces and commended them too. 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 government we have three local governments remaining, Abadam, Kalabaldi and Gwoza and we are optimistic that with time we will liberate those local governments. I am not competent to speak on the elections. 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 and 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. How soon? I don’t know.”
Asked if the military operations could be concluded before the March 28 presidential elections, the army chief said: “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 permutations.”
Minimah further clarified that the mop up operations in the liberated areas did not yield any clues as to whether the abducted Chibok girls were kept there before they moved or not. According to him, “no news for now. In all the liberated areas we have, we have also made enquiries but the truth is when the terrorists are running away they also run with their families.
“And those we have come in contact have not made any comments suggesting that Chibok girls were there and taken away. But we are optimistic that as the war gets closer, the territory is becoming elusive to them (terrorists) and we will get further details on that.”
On the issues of hiring of foreign mercenaries by the Nigerian Army, he stated that they were only advisers and instructors meant to maintain the newly acquired security equipment. “Whenever you have new equipment, the equipment come with contract and the contract include maintenance and the technicians that come with them are those that we hire”, he said.
INEC had last month moved the elections by six weeks ahead, from February 14th and 28th to March 28th and April 11th, giving the security challenges in the North East as the major reason.
On his part, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega briefed President Goodluck Jonathan and heads of all security agencies, about the Commission’s preparedness ahead of the elections.
Jega emerged from the meeting at about 2.20 p.m accompanied by two top officials who attended the meeting with him. Asked by State House correspondents how the meeting, went, he replied, “I believe it went well.” Other questions relating to the use of card readers during the elections, the level of the Commission’s preparedness, and if another postponement was in the offing all went unanswered as he made his way out of the presidential villa, Abuja.
The meeting has in attendance Vice President Namadi Sambo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim; Chief of Staff to the President, Gen. Jones Arogbofa (retd.); National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki; Attorney-General of the Federation, Muhammed Adoke (SAN); Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan; Minister of Interior, Mr. Aba Moro; and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali. Others in attendance are Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh; Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Minimah; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu; Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba; as well as the heads of the Department of State Security and the National Intelligence Agency.