Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo

A civil society group, Taraba Volunteer Group (TVG), on Wednesday raised the alarm over an alleged deployment of 3,000 ‘fake’ soldiers to disrupt next Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections in Taraba State by the APC-led Federal government.

The state coordinator of the group, Mr Joseph Terence, who disclosed this at a press briefing in Jalingo said that the same set of soldiers had earlier taken over major checkpoints in the state prior to the postponed election last Saturday with a brief to ensure smooth passage of fake electoral materials by the agents of the ruling APC.

Terence said the deployment was a follow up on declaration earlier made by the national leadership of the APC that the party would take over Taraba State from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) all cost and in line with the president’s directives that soldiers should deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers during the forthcoming general elections.

“As a civil society group, we are concerned with the conduct of free, fair, peaceful and credible polls, but we regret to state that the chances of achieving this in the forthcoming election in Taraba State are at grave risk. There is a well-grounded plan to cause chaos in Taraba State and pave way for the election to be manipulated against the popular wish of the people.

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“We gathered reliably that 3,000 fake soldiers were deployed to Taraba State, who came and took over all the major checkpoints that were hitherto dismantled. These are fake soldiers but were heavily armed. These arrangements for rigging the election are in fulfilment of threats by APC top shots recently. The governorship candidate of the APC also requested recently that the president should give him enough security in the state ahead of the election. We strongly believe that these fake soldiers are a fulfilment of that request.”

However, in a swift reaction, the spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress APC in the state, Mr Aaron Artimas, has challenged the members of the group to identify the fake soldiers and report them to the relevant security agencies so that they can be arrested and prosecuted.

Artimas said that the “APC was relying on her overwhelming popularity and the gross failure of the state government to win the state on a landslide and would never resort to violence as against the PDP-led state government that orchestrated an attack on the candidate of the party during a campaign rally and is known to have armed thugs across the state to be used to disrupt the election and cause chaos.

“We are also aware of the plans by the state government to use the state marshal who are already parading in military camouflage as if they were military men. This is a desperate move by a government that has failed the people terribly and is trying to salvage its mandate through any more and possible.”

Our correspondent reports that there is tension in the state ahead of the election as both parties are accusing each other of plot to violently rig the election, while violent attacks have continued to rise in the state occasioned by kidnapping and other acts of theft.