By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor
PAN Niger-Delta Forum, PANDEF, and Niger Delta women have called on the Federal Government to disregard sacred cows and set up a full-scale investigation into all cases of electoral infractions, violence and killings allegedly perpetrated by the military, politicians and other institutions of state, during the elections.
PANDEF, the umbrella body of traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of coastal states of Niger Delta, made the appeal in a statement by the National Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, while women drawn from Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta states stated their position in an eight-point communiqué at a one-day round-table in Port-Harcourt.
Omu of Anioma Kingdom, Delta State, HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu, Lolo Hailsham from Bonny Kingdom, Rivers State, led participants, including leaders of Okrika and Ogu/Bolo women, who resisted snatching of ballots by soldiers in the last elections in Rivers State at the colloquium.
PANDEF, which dissociated itself from the views, expressed by its spokesperson, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe on Rivers governorship polls in a recent television programme said, “we will, therefore, use this opportunity to commend the decision of INEC on the Rivers State Governorship and House of Assembly elections.”
“We further implore the electoral body to always be guided by subsisting electoral laws and guidelines, and endeavour to remain truly neutral and impartial in the discharge of its duties at all times, no matter the circumstances.”
“The show of brigandage allegedly demonstrated in Rivers State by the Army, Air Force, Police and other paramilitary personnel by invading the INEC office in Port Harcourt in a bid to arm-twist and intimidate the INEC officials in order to swing the results of the election to a predetermined candidate is very dangerous,” it added.
On Chief Sara-Igbe, PANDEF asserted, “Sara-Igbe had laboured so hard with the intent to introduce ethnic coloration into the fragile security situation, wrongly using PANDEF as a vehicle to achieve his aim.
“PANDEF represents all the ethnic nationalities in the South-South region of Nigeria, and so, could not have canvassed any position that tends to cause division and rancour among the various ethnic nationalities that have lived peacefully together over the centuries, as Anabs Sara-Igbe would want the public to believe,” it said.
The women in an eight-point communiqué, said, “A panel of inquiry should therefore be set up immediately by both Federal Government and the International community to identify and prosecute the sponsors and perpetrators of violence during the 2019, elections in the Niger Delta, more especially the role of the military during the elections.”
They agreed to mobilize and organize women across political and ethnic divide to form alliances and build capacity for preventing electoral and other forms of violence in communities of the Niger Delta.
The women also set up a committee of women under the leadership of HRM Obi Martha Dunkwu and AA Peaceworks, to strategically engage traditional rulers and political leaders in all the states to put an end to violence in the Niger Delta region.
They resolved that “There should be an immediate ceasefire on all politically motivated violence, hate speeches, inciting statements, and sponsorship of violence in the region. Anyone contravening this ceasefire will be named and shamed by Niger Delta women.”
“Government and stakeholders should take steps to carry out disarmament, reconciliation, rehabilitation and reintegration of youths and those that have been affected by violence during the elections
“Build the capacity of women to fully understand their civic and constitutional rights to enable them speak up against violence and intimidation
“Women should be bold to seek offices in political parties and governments at all levels and also be engaged in decision making machinery of government
“Communities of the Niger Delta should stop celebrating people known for violence; rather those that have contributed positively to the development of the region should be identified and celebrated,” the women declared.