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Reports coming in say ahead of Saturday (today) rerun legislative elections in Rivers State , South-South Nigeria, major cities in the state have been deserted as fear of violence heightens thus giving rise to every compelling need to for the army to deploy soldiers to flash points in the state. 
The situation prompted the both the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the newly created 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, Maj-Gen. Kasimu Abdulkarim, and the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Francis Odesanya, to issue stern warnings yesterday against ballot box snatching, rigging and unlawful movements during rerun that will cut across the three senatorial districts in the state.
As soldiers and policemen were deployed in flashpoints and other strategic parts of the state, representatives of the European Union, US, UK and France issued a joint statement yesterday expressing fears that the elections could turn violent.
Both the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), through its President, Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, and the Doing Democracy Movement (DDM), through its Convener, Anyakwee Nsirimovu, also warned against violence and rigging during the rerun, stressing that the electorate must be allowed to vote for candidates of their choice.
Maj-Gen. Abdulkarimu, who was addressing officers and soldiers at the 6 Division’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, the state capital yesterday, stated that the heavy deployment of troops in flash points was meant to prevent the breakdown of law and order before, during and after the polls.

He said the soldiers would also be deployed in strategic locations, including oil and gas installations and other critical assets in and around Rivers State, while he directed the commanders to ensure early planning, coordination and liaison with civil authority, police, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders in order to ensure a hitch-free rerun in the hitherto volatile Niger Delta state.
The GOC said: “During the elections, commanders are to ensure that troops are deployed in flash points, key points and valuable points before, during and after the elections.
“Troops will be in their respective positions by 3 am on election day. Commanders are to ensure that troops are deployed in the outer perimeter of designated collation centres and polling booths in support of the Nigerian Police without getting directly involved with INEC’s activities.
“Commanders are to direct the conduct of patrols, establish checkpoints and roadblocks and provide escort during the elections in order to prevent unlawful movements, ballot box snatching and sundry crimes.
“Commanders must ensure that troops deny unauthorised persons access to collation centres, INEC offices and NYSC officials during the elections.
“Commanders must ensure that troops are deployed rapidly to contain any breach of peace and ensure protection of lives and property while taking into consideration the principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality and humanity.”
Maj-Gen. Abdulkarim also stated that the local commanders were expected to escort election materials to the INEC office in Port Harcourt.

The troops would also identify and curtail hostile individuals, groups and key players, as well as gather information and carry out a show of force within strategic towns in Rivers and adjoining states.
The GOC said: “Commanders are to establish a broad-band communication network with repeater stations at strategic towns and embark on wide information gathering/intelligence activities within and adjoining states.
“Personnel found flouting the army’s position on the elections would be severely sanctioned in line with our operational guideline.

“Officers and soldiers should disassociate themselves with civilians and politicians, especially during the elections.”
Maj-Gen. Abdulkarim also ordered the troops to remain non-partisan and document on video and pictorial evidence for use, in the event of litigation that might result from their conduct during the elections.
The GOC admonished the soldiers to strictly adhere to the Nigerian army’s election code of conduct and operational orders during the rerun.
Odesanya insisted that the restriction of movement of people and vehicles/boats both on land and the waterways from midnight to 8 pm today would be strictly adhered to.
The Rivers State Commissioner of Police also stated that officers and men of the command would not tolerate lawlessness, thuggery, violence or rigging, and would deal decisively with troublemakers, no matter how highly placed.
MOSOP said: “Ogoni and other Rivers people are urged to be peaceful and vigilant to ensure violence-free, fair and credible rerun elections.

“The people, especially the youths, must be peaceful at all times and not to allow themselves to be used by politicians to cause violence before, during and after the elections. Violence during the polls will be a setback.”
The DDM also called on all Rivers people to refuse to yield to the prevalent grammar of electoral politics symptomatic to lawlessness, hate, violence and turn out en masse to vote for candidates of their choice on December 10.
It noted that the barbaric grammar of electoral politics in Rivers State was a fundamental threat to the survival of electoral democracy in Nigeria.
DDM said: “Some politicians in Rivers State have appropriated to themselves the policy of life or death, health or disease, equity or inequity, repair or deterioration, information or ignorance, open or closed government – overwhelming the people, eroding still further our capacity for self-government.
 “No matter your candidate or party of choice, ensure you vote a viable democratic, rule of law-based Rivers State.
“Citizens have a fundamental responsibility to preserve democracy and maintain its health by taking their democratic spirit seriously, giving no room to any inclination to violence.
“All should approach the election day activities with peace and tolerance, knowing full well that elections are civilised mechanisms for peaceful democratic rotation of leadership and adjudication between competing programmes.
 “The DDM reminds the people of Rivers State that they are the democratic geniuses, without which democracy in the state becomes lifeless.
“Citizens have to pay for the gift of freedom. Citizens have to earn the right to be members of democracy.
“Democracy in Rivers State can only succeed through ordinary people, not our so-called cultivated, learned elite.
“The masses must turn out and take their sovereign mandate seriously.
“On December 10, you must provide the barrier to demagogue’s misuse of power by ensuring that competent representatives take the burden of leadership on your behalf through your issue-based vote.
“For a Nigerian, democracy held and nurtured by ordinary people is the answer, not for ourselves, but for history.
You must shun violent politicians who will brake hearts by a patriotism of word but not of deed.”
EU, US, UK, France express worries
In a joint statement yesterday the heads of mission of the EU, US, UK and France called on the leadership of all the political parties and their supporters to allow for peaceful elections.
They urged party leaders and their supporters not to use or incite violence.
Paul T. Arkwright, British High Commissioner to Nigeria; W. Stuart Symington, the United States (US) Ambassador to Nigeria; Denys Guaer, the French Ambassador of Nigeria and Michel Arrion, the EU Head of Delegation to Nigeria, all signed the statement.
The envoys stressed that the leaders of all the parties are accountable for the actions of their members.
They also encouraged INEC and the security forces to perform their duties responsibly and impartially.
 They also urged all parties to respect the electoral process and raise any grievances peacefully and through official channels.
 The statement reads: “We note with concern the rising tension in Rivers State ahead of elections on 10 December.
“We call on the leadership of all political parties and their supporters in Rivers state to allow elections to go ahead peacefully.
“We encourage INEC and the security forces to perform their duties responsibly and impartially. We urge all parties to respect the electoral process and raise any grievances peacefully and through official channels.
“We stress that the leaders of all parties are accountable for the actions of their members and we encourage them to urge their supporters not to use or incite violence.
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