Abia State government on Tuesday raised the alarm over the existence of security men dressed in military uniform allegedly working for the campaign organisation of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Alex Otti.
The allegation made by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Anthony Agbazuere at a press conference in Umuahia sparked recriminations between the government and campaign organisation of Dr. Otti, which had denied it.
Agbazuere said that he was making the disclosure about the existence of Otti’s private army in order, “to alert the federal government, security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)” about the security implications.
“We do not know the source of his (Otti) army,” he said, adding that the uniformed men have been harassing innocent Abians by blocking access roads around venues when he held campaign rallies.
“Government has equally received several complaints from Abians to the effect that Mr. Alex Otti uses his army to display physical force, intimidate and harass law-abiding citizens,” he said, citing alleged incidents at a rally in Umuacha Primary School in Amaise Ahaba Isiala Ngwa South and Ariam Usaka in Ikwuano local governments respectively.
Agbazuere insisted that it was illegal for the APGA governorship candidate to use security men in military uniform in his campaigns, citing Sections (5) 7 (6) and 131 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act, which prohibits the use of private security organisation or retain, organise, train or equip any person or group of persons for the used or display of physical force or coercion in promotion his political objective.
However, in a swift reaction, Dr. Otti’s Campaign Organisation vehemently denied the allegation, describing it a blatant falsehood aimed at deceiving the Abia public and causing disaffection against Dr. Otti’s candidacy.
In a statement issued by Mr. Ahamdi Nweke, the Director-General of Otti’s Campaign Organisation said the camp of the APGA would never engage in violence to actualise his political ambition. It also said that APGA as a political party “is noted for its strict adherence to the rule of law, peace and harmony and has won and will continue to win elections in the country, especially in the South-east, without recourse to violence, thuggery and rigging”.
“We hereby state that the allegations that Dr. Alex Otti was training an army of youths to foment trouble during the general elections were barefaced lies and deceit fabricated by the government to cause public disaffection against Dr Otti’s candidacy.
“By his track record in both the private and public life, Dr Otti is well-known for his peace-loving disposition and cannot contemplate any act that could disrupt an election especially an election he is already destined by God to win in order to deliver his people from the long years of deceit, suffering and poverty,” the statement said.