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By NBF News
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FORMER Minister of Defence and Chairman, Federal Government Amnesty Committee, Maj.-Gen. Godwin Abbe, has disclosed why soldiers attached to the Edo State anti-crime outfit, 'Operation Thunderstorm,' were withdrawn about a year ago.

At a breakfast meeting with some reporters yesterday, Abbe said he personally called for the withdrawal of the soldiers because it was clear there were attempts to manipulate the re-run election ordered by the Court of Appeal for Etsako Central seat of the state House of Assembly using the military.

The withdrawal of soldiers days to the January 21, 2010 election by the Ministry of Defence sparked criticism from the state governor, Adams Oshiomhole and other leaders of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) who alleged then that the move was to give a free hand to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some other stakeholders to skew the election in favour of the PDP.

But Abbe said: 'There were available information that soldiers' uniforms were being sewn. This means that some people in military uniforms would have manipulated the process and there could have been deaths. The impression would have been that I used the military to kill my own people.

'As at that time, the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua was ill, the Vice President had not been empowered to act. At the end of the election, which the ACN eventually won, nobody commended the minister for being proactive. I got stones from the PDP, the ACN did not commend me neither.'

Abbe said the amnesty programme was a success considering that 'I got 20,000 militants to surrender their arms,' despite some harrowing experiences in the process.

According to him, he received threats that his helicopter would be gunned down when he wanted to visit one of the militant leaders, Tompolo in Okporoza Delta State, a threat he said was enough to stop the process, as 'it is very easy to bring down a helicopter.'