Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has warned against dragging the military into the ongoing End SARS protest following the launch of Crocodile Smile exercise.
The Army had said it would commence Exercise Crocodile Smile VI, which is usually conducted annually to checkmate the activities of criminals across the country during the ember months.
It noted that this time, the military operation which would run from October 20 to December 31, would carry out cyber warfare operations to counter negative propaganda by criminal gangs and groups in social media and across the cyberspace.
Falana had, however, alleged plots by President Muhammadu Buhari to use soldiers to quell the End SARS protests across the country.
According to him, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, risks facing the International Criminal Court (ICC) if any of the protesters is killed.
In the statement issued by Alliance for Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), Femi Flana advises Buhari to withdraw plans to engage soldiers for what is purely a democratic issue.
The statement added that protests have commonplace across the world as seen in Hong Kong, US, France, South Africa, Belarus, and even in Sudan.
“It is unfortunate that the Nigerian government is sending a signal to the military that it has a role to play in a purely civil matter.
“The plan to deploy soldiers is dangerous. It will push Nigeria into the red light district of global reckoning,” the statement read.
It urged “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.”
Some CSOs, including Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Enough is Enough and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, have also condemned the military exercise, saying it is unacceptable.
They allege that it was designed to crush the civil protests.
The CSOs unanimously warned that the Exercise Crocodile Smile VI would only serve to exacerbate the distrust of citizens and lack of confidence in the state and its institutions.
So, they urged the military to withdraw the operation and remain in their barracks to defend the territorial integrity of the country until the #EndSARS protests abated.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for Nigeria Movement has warned Falana not to make comments that could pitch the military against the civilians.
The group said it views Femi Falana’s statements as callous, and a continuation of the deep-rooted hatred him and his shadowy group has for the Nigerian Army in its efforts in tackling the various security challenges in the country.
In a statement via its Secretary General, Ainoko Idoko, the group wants Falana to desist from issuing unguarded public statements that are aimed at distracting the Nigerian Army in its quest towards addressing the myriads of security challenges in the country.
The statement reads: “First, Femi Falana and his group made an unsubstantiated allegation that was hinged on a deliberate plot to drag the Nigerian Army into the EndSARS protests across the country to instigate the people against the Nigerian Army.”
The statement added that, “It is consequently appalling that a man of Femi Falana’s standing as a lawyer does not know that making wild and unsubstantiated allegations is a crime that is capable of instigating conflict in the country.
“It is also despicable that Femi Falana and his group would elect to condescend so low to playing to the gallery and for pecuniary benefits by acting as agents of foreign forces bent on destabilizing Nigeria.
“The Coalition for Nigeria Movement wishes to inform members of the general public that the Nigerian Army in the past five years has transformed into a professional force through the efforts of the dynamic leadership of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, who has introduced notable reforms in the operations of the Nigerian Army especially in the area of the entrenchment and preservation of human rights.”