WorldStage Newsonline– A former Nigeria-born United States military Captain, Bish Johnson, has described the conduct of military personnel deployed to help maintain peace in the yet to be concluded 2019 general elections as falling short of professional standard expected of people of their calling.
Johnson gave the verdict today while featuring in one of the Channels Television security programmes against the backdrop of alleged brutalization of voters and INEC officials by soldiers in some flashpoint states.
There were reports of confrontation between soldiers and policemen at some election collation centres in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and in some other states in the south-south and south-east geo-political regions of the country.
According to him, deployment of both military and paramilitary operatives in conduct of elections in the country is unfortunate and symptomatic of political immaturity of the Nigerian state.
He said the role of the military in an exercise as elections, if called upon at all, shouldn’t go beyond complementing the efforts of other security agents in maintaining peaceful process and not competing with them.
Asked if soldiers in one of the recorded videos of them clashing with some policemen at a collation centre in Port Harcourt were not merely trying to prevent snatching of ballot boxes and forestall hoodlums activities, Johnson responded that that role was supposed to be performed by the police while soldiers should have limited themselves to monitoring situations from the periphery.
He argued that except what happened was different from what he watched in the video, the soldiers’ actions there were heavily partisan in favour of the ruling APC as, according to Johnson, only the representatives of APC were allowed into the centre while those of other parties were manhandled and denied entrance.
On the committee set up to investigate the matter, he expressed lack of confidence in it, arguing that there was no way the committee would come out with any objective and unbiased report since its members were drawn mainly from the military.
He said if government was serious about finding out the truth of the matter, it should have set up an investigative body comprising independent individuals or non-governmental organizations.
He added that there was no way a committee people by retired military personnel would indict an institution that produced them.
The ex-US soldier stated that he looked to a time when all elections in Nigeria would be conducted electronically to eliminate the use of security agencies and thereby ensure peaceful electoral process and mass participation.
Until that is achieved, according to him, deployment of security agencies including the military would always be a necessity. He however gave security agents’ performance in the conduct of the 2019 general elections average score, saying without them the exercise might have been more violent.