- Lagos protesters order closure of all schools on Tuesday
The commencement of the military exercise, Operation Crocodile Smile” on Tuesday amidst the prevailing #ENDSARS mass protest across the country, has precipitated fears of using force to quell the protests. Some stakeholders have warned of resisting the temptation of acts of genocide or crime against humanity by the security operatives.
However, the military authorities have explained that the exercise is not targeted at the #ENDSARS protesters who have been engaged in peaceful protest demanding end to police brutality and extra-judicial killing.
A former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, expressed concerns that “the determination to use brute force and to kill innocent young men and women in an attempt to crush this protest comes with a very heavy price tag and butchers bill.
“The plan to deploy soldiers in our streets and to slaughter #EndSARS protesters in the same way that the Shiite Muslims and IPOB youths were once slaughtered by the military and security forces will be Lt. General Tukur Burutai and President Muhammadu Buhari’s biggest mistake and gravest error.” Fani-Kayode added: “If for ANY reason whatsoever, they go ahead, it will turn the #Endsars movement into the #ENDNigeria movement and no force or power in hell or on earth will be able to resist or stop it.”
While it is germane to call for caution in the use of force by the government on the protesters, it is also germane that the security operatives in their indicated good intentions are not intimidated to the point of discouragement in the performance of their duties.
The Acting Director Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, had indicated in a statement that the exercise which is traditionally conducted in the last quarter of the year, will hold this year from October 20 to December 31.
He explained: “This year’s nationwide operation is however coming at a time Nigerian youths are staging #EndSARS protests around the country to protest police brutality.
“This year’s exercise, Crocodile Smile VI, is deliberately intended to be all encompassing to include cyber warfare exercises designed to identify, track and counter negative propaganda in the social media and across the cyberspace.”
Col. Musa had further declared: “This is the first ever Cyber warfare exercise to be conducted in the history of the African Armed Forces. Accordingly, the exercise will also include positive identification component aimed at identifying Boko Haram terrorists fleeing from the North East and other parts of the country as a result of the ongoing operations in the various theatres of operations especially in the Northeast, North Central and North Western parts of Nigeria.
“The Nigerian Army, once again, reassures all well-meaning Nigerians of its commitment to the sustenance of peace and security in Nigeria and urges members of the public for their support and understanding throughout the period of the exercise.”
Chairman of a front line labour and civil society coalition, Alliance for the Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), Femi Falana, was of the view that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, or any of his men risk facing the International Criminal Court in the Hague if any of the protesters is killed during the military exercise.
ASCAB in a statement by the Chairman, Femi Falana, observed that protests have global recognition in democracies in countries like Hong Kong, United States, France, South Africa, Belarus and even in Sudan, noting that Nigeria wants to set another bad precedence, arguing that in no instance were soldiers deployed to suppress the protesters.
The statement reads: “Nigeria wants to set another ugly precedence in world history. The Federal Government should be reminded that Operation Crocodile Smile has been declared illegal by Nigeria court with competent jurisdiction following legal actions filed by Mr. Femi Falana and efforts by the Chief of Army Staff to challenge the order by approaching the Court of Appeal met a brick wall.
“ASCAB recalled that the Federal High Court in July this year granted a perpetual injunction restraining the army from such an exercise in Femi Falana SAN v Chief of Army Staff (FHV/L/CS/1939/19.
“Every bullet that goes out from the barrel of the gun, is owned by the people of Nigeria adding that it is a crime under international law to release these bullets with the hope of taking human life.”
ASCAB had declared: “The plan to deploy soldiers is dangerous. It will push Nigeria into the red-light district of global reckoning.
“Sending soldiers after school children and leaders of tomorrow shows what future we anticipate for the teeming population of young men and women who have taken to the streets to protest against a system that buries their dreams and shatter their potentials and aspirations.
“We urge President Muhammadu Buhari not to use soldiers to quell a peaceful, civil protest. The protesters have been lawful. The few cases of violence were associated with armed thugs disrupting the protests coupled with the shooting of protesters by security operatives.
“The political class is isolating Nigerians from governance. State resources are squandered by a few, corrupt people who over the years have failed to address institutional rot that continues to fuel anger and desperation of the toiling people.”
The Nigerian Army had, however, reaffirmed that the military exercise is not targeted at the #ENDSARS protesters.
Some stakeholders had cautioned that both the president and the Chief of Army Staff should learn from the life imprisonment of Charles Taylor, former Liberian President by the ICC over war crime and crime against humanity which he perpetuated when in office.
The #ENDSARS protesters increased in number in several states of the federation on Monday. In Lagos, there was partial lock down of the city and urban periphery. The Lagos protesters on Monday ordered the closure of all schools in the state on Tuesday for grand protests across the state. Primary school pupils and secondary school students are being drafted into the protest on Tuesday. A strong warning was issued to private school operators in Lagos not to open schools on Tuesday as they were taking their pupils home after school hours on Monday.
The protest of police brutality and extra-judicial killings by the Nigeria Police has been extended to end bad governance in Nigeria.