The Nigerian Army has said the newly-launched Exercise Crocodile Smile VI has nothing to do with the ongoing #EndSARS protests across the country.
The Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, indicated this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.
Musa emphasised that the exercise is a yearly event set out to train officers and men in its efforts to ensure safety and security of Nigeria and its citizens.
“It is a yearly exercise in the Army Calendar/Forecast of Events which traditionally holds from October to December of each year.
According to Musa, this year’s exercise is scheduled to commence from Oct. 20 to December 31, and it has no relationship with any lawful protest under any guise whatsoever.
He warned “to now insinuate that it is an exercise meant to stifle the ongoing #EndSARS protest is sheer misinformation.
“So far, the army has acted professionally since the civil protest started over two weeks ago.
“The army hereby enjoins all law-abiding Nigerians to go about their lawful activities unhindered,” he said.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has been advised not to use soldiers to forcefully stop the #ENDSARs protests that have gripped more than 20 states in the country.
In a letter to the President, Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, asked the President to enter into constructive dialogue with the protesters.
“I can’t imagine soldiers being sent to stop protests. Soldiers are to fight external aggression. We are dealing with peaceful protesters. It is wrong to give the impression that Nigeria is at war with her citizens. We must do everything to promote and defend democratic culture” Iba Gani Adams said
Adams also urged the protesters to ensure the process is not hijacked by violent and recalcitrant people.
“I condemn violence in all forms. I strongly condemn the actions of some security operatives that murdered the protesters. The list available to me shows that 20 people have been killed across the country. I also condemn, in the most profound manner, the killing of any protester or the killing of any security official associated with the protests” Gani Adams wrote
He said using soldiers to quell protests by civilians have already been declared illegal by a Federal High Court in July 2020.
He reminded the President that protests have hit many countries this year and none has resorted to using soldiers to suppress the protesters
In the letter, Adams berated the incidence of violence linked with some protesters in some states of the Federation
“The protests have been largely peaceful. The resort to violence by a section of the protesters is condemnable. It is uncalled for. Violence seeks veangace and creates wounds which scars never heal. Violence diminishes critical thinking, undermines democracy and destroys any noble
intention of the protesters. It also questions the quality of those behind the protests. On the other hand, adoption of a violent response by the state should never be considered an option.,
Gani Adams wrote “I saw clips of the attack on the convoy of the Governor of Osun State, His Excellency,Gboyega Oyetola. This is distasteful. In the same way I condemn the violent attacks on the convoy of the Governor of Ekiti State Dr Kayode Fayemi. It’s unfortunate that the incidence in Osun led to avoidable deaths”
He said the killings and violence are ill winds for the South-West and Nigeria adding that such attacks might by explored by political interests to plunge the South West into a state of emergency
Adams urged Buhari to see the protest as a form of resistance against systemic failure, corruption, economic and political exclusion and above all incompetence at all levels
He urged the President to initiate the process for the transformation of the police force to an organ driven by public interest
“The police should not just be reformed, it should be transformed. This is the time for you to work with the National Assembly to establish state and community policing system in line with the fundamental principles of Federalism. You have a golden opportunity to do this. Go ahead and take the bull by the horn and save Nigerian from the potential of horrendous evil of a garrison state”, Adams said