Chairman of opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Cross River State, Venatius Ikem has said that they will reject the illegal deployment of soldiers during the by-elections in Akpabuyo state and Ogoja-Yala federal constituencies this weekend.
He spoke on the allegation that Governor Ben Ayade went to the Commander of 13 Brigade of Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Everest Okoro on Thursday morning to request for mass deployment of soldiers for the two by-elections apparently to give his party confidence.
Addressing a news conference at the PDP office in Calabar, Ikem said, “The resistance we are talking about is towards the deployment. We will protest to the appropriate quarters the illegal deployment of the Army for purposes of the election when there is no need for it.
Ikem explained that there are legitimate ways soldiers, even other security agencies can be deployed, explaining that there is also an illegitimate way one can attempt to use them illegally to intimidate voters.
Ikem said that if the directive to deploy the army comes from the Chief of Army Staff, it is legitimate.
“But if it is from the governor, we will resist,” he said.
“I have on good authority that the governor went personally to meet with the Brigade Commander this morning to solicit for him to deploy men of the Nigerian Army for the elections. That is illegitimate use. He cannot deploy the army; it is only the Chief of Army Staff that can deploy the army. If they have reason to believe that there are exceptional circumstances, security circumstances that would warrant the deployment of the army, we (PDP) will be so briefed and it will be included in the operational order because there must be a security operational order outside which you cannot deploy security. That is our position.”
Reacting, the Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Erasmus Ekpang, said they have all left Calabar to intensify campaigns in the two places by-elections are to hold and have no intention to request for military deployment.
The Information Officer at 13 Brigade, Captain Tope Aluko could not confirm if Ayade made any request but promised to revert to our correspondent.