Bru­tal # EndSARS Protests Im­mi­nent As Ex­er­cise Croc­o­dile Smile Be­gins

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• Cy­ber War­fare Oper­a­tion Starts On Tues­day • Army Must Tread With Cau­tion In Deal­ing With Pro­test­ers - Shehu Sani

• Vi­o­lent Reprisal Of Peace­ful Protests Dan­ger­ous, Says CSOS • North­ern Coali­tion Seeks Cam­paign Against In­se­cu­rity In the North

• It’s Time To Re­turn Home, APC Stake­hold­ers Beg Pro­test­ers • World Igbo Con­gress Ex­presses Sol­i­dar­ity With Pro­test­ers

• Ohanaeze Youth Coun­cil De­mands Re­lease Of Igbo Youths Wrongly In­car­cer­ated By SARS

• Call For Buhari’s Res­ig­na­tion Un­ac­cept­able, Po­lit­i­cally In­sti­gated, Says NDF

By Eno- Abasi Sun­day and Gbenga Akinfenwa ( Lagos), Adamu Abuh, Kanayo Umeh and Sodiq Omo­laoye ( Abuja), Sax­one Akhaine ( Kaduna), Nnamdi Akpa, Abaka­liki

THE Fed­eral Govern­ment may have fi­nally yielded to the temp­ta­tion of quelling the on­go­ing # ENDSARS protests via mil­i­tary might, in the guise of Ex­er­cise Croc­o­dile Smile 6, which the Nige­rian Army, yes­ter­day, an­nounced will com­mence on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 20.

Also en­com­passed in Ex­er­cise Croc­o­dile Smile 6, is a cy­ber war­fare oper­a­tion, which the army said is “de­signed to iden­tify, track and counter neg­a­tive pro­pa­ganda on the so­cial me­dia and across the cy­berspace.”

This de­vel­op­ment came to light on a day that protest­ing youths in Lagos State and other lo­ca­tions across the coun­try be­came vo­cif­er­ous in their de­mand for Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari’s res­ig­na­tion.

But Civil rights cru­sader, Se­na­tor Shehu Sani has cau­tioned the mil­i­tary to tread care­fully in deal­ing with youths, who are protest­ing against the govern­ment’s poor han­dling of af­fairs. The first in­di­ca­tion that the govern­ment may be con­tem­plat­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion emerged when the Nige­rian Army is­sued a warn­ing to “sub­ver­sive el­e­ments and trou­ble mak­ers” to de­sist af­ter a week of protests. Army spokesman, Col. Sa­gir Musa, in a Face­book post said: “The NA ( Nige­rian army) hereby warns all sub­ver­sive el­e­ments and trou­ble mak­ers to de­sist from such acts as it re­mains highly com­mit­ted to de­fend the coun­try and her democ­racy at all cost.”

In the state­ment, which many viewed as a veiled threat, Sa­gir said the army would “sup­port the civil au­thor­ity in what­ever ca­pac­ity to main­tain law and or­der and deal with any sit­u­a­tion de­ci­sively.”

Early last week, the Chair­man of the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee Against Cor­rup­tion ( PACAC), Prof. Itse Sa­gay, equally hinted that the govern­ment may force­fully end protests, which has spread across the coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to him: “My ob­ser­va­tion is that hood­lums are al­ready hi­jack­ing the protests. The IGP has al­ready dis­banded the SARS. So, it no longer ex­ists of­fi­cially as a unit. The youths re­fused to stop protest­ing, they said they wanted the Pres­i­dent to is­sue an Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der dis­solv­ing it. Ex­ec­u­tive Or­ders are not used for that pur­pose.

“I be­lieve the youths should be sat­is­fied at this stage. If the youths still come out to­mor­row ( Oc­to­ber 14) again, then it will look as if the whole demon­stra­tion has a hid­den agenda for which # ENDSARS is be­ing used as a cover. It will seem there is an agenda to dis­turb the sta­bil­ity of the coun­try and en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties that may be along the line of # Revo­lu­tion­now, which it­self is the high­est crime in our con­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

THE act­ing Direc­tor of Army In­for­ma­tion, Musa, while an­nounc­ing the mil­i­tary ex­er­cise said this year’s ex­er­cise will run from Oc­to­ber 20 to De­cem­ber 31, 2020.

He ex­plained that the oper­a­tion would in­clude cy­ber war­fare ex­er­cises, which is de­signed to iden­tify, track and counter neg­a­tive pro­pa­ganda on the so­cial me­dia and across the cy­berspace.

“This is the first ever Cy­ber war­fare ex­er­cise to be con­ducted in the his­tory of 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.

He added: “The Nige­rian Army, once again, re­as­sures all well mean­ing Nige­ri­ans of its com­mit­ment to the sus­te­nance of peace and se­cu­rity in Nige­ria,” and urges the sup­port and un­der­stand­ing of mem­bers of the public throughout the pe­riod of the ex­er­cise.

BUT de­spite fears that the protests may get bloody when the mil­i­tary oper­a­tion gets un­der­way on Tues­day, the army, in a sep­a­rate re­lease claimed that Ex­er­cise Croc­o­dile Smile has noth­ing to do with # ENDSARS protest.

Ac­cord­ing to him: “Ex­er­cise Croc­o­dile Smile VI has noth­ing to do with the on­go­ing protest and the Nige­rian Army ( NA) has never been in­volved in the on­go­ing protest in any form what­so­ever. So far, the army has acted pro­fes­sion­ally since the civil protest started over two weeks ago.

“For the records, Ex­er­cise Croc­o­dile Smile is a yearly ex­er­cise in the NA Cal­en­dar/ Fore­cast of Events which tra­di­tion­ally holds from Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber of each year.

“The army hereby en­joins all law abid­ing Nige­ri­ans to go about their law­ful ac­tiv­i­ties un­hin­dered as the Ex­er­cise has noth­ing to do with # ENDSARS protest, but a yearly event set out by the NA in its ef­forts to en­sur­ing safety and se­cu­rity of Nige­ria and her cit­i­zens.”

SE­NA­TOR Sani, who rep­re­sented Kaduna Cen­tral at the Eighth Se­nate, said that Nige­ri­ans have the demo­cratic rights to protest against the ex­cesses of the rul­ing govern­ment, and the grad­ual reign of fas­cism in the coun­try. “The Army should not in­ter­vene to crush peace­ful pro­test­ers,” he said in one of his tweets, adding that, “we have enough ban­dits and in­sur­gents in our forests and deserts that need their at­ten­tion.”

The hu­man rights ac­tivist also re­acted to some res­i­dents of Borno State, who took to the street to protest the dis­band­ment of SARS de­scrib­ing “the pro- SARS pro­test­ers as Al­sa­tians of the sys­tem.”

IN the same breadth, a group of civil so­ci­eties in the coun­try has warned the Fed­eral Govern­ment against us­ing the mil­i­tary to quell the on­go­ing na­tion­wide protests.

In a state­ment re­leased in Abuja, yes­ter­day, the coali­tion con­sist­ing of 16 CSOS said the threat is­sued by the Mil­i­tary High Com­mand con­cern­ing the protests re­vealed that an “un­ac­cept­able move is be­ing made to crush the peace­ful protests.”

Ac­cord­ing to them, such a threat was ill- con­ceived in the face of le­git­i­mate cit­i­zens’ protest, and a threat to con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed rights.

The CSOS in­clude Cen­tre for Democ­racy and De­vel­op­ment ( CDD- West Africa), Enough is Enough ( EIE), Part­ners for Elec­toral Re­form, Civil So­ci­ety Leg­isla­tive Ad­vo­cacy Cen­tre ( CISLAC), YIAGA Africa, Global Rights, among oth­ers.

The coali­tion noted that while the # ENDSARS is fo­cused on the im­me­di­ate con­cern of a brutish polic­ing sys­tem, the pro­test­ers were also in­her­ently voic­ing their anger against a gov­er­nance sys­tem, which has failed to reckon with them.

The coali­tion said: “We re­ject in its en­tirety the move to draft in the mil­i­tary to quell the protests, even where there has been no vi­o­lent con­duct on the part of pro­test­ers.

“The mil­i­tary should re­main in their bar­racks and at their duty posts, de­fend­ing the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of the coun­try, and not de­ployed in a dan­ger­ous anti- peo­ple and an­tidemo­cratic oper­a­tion to crush a peo­ple who are ex­er­cis­ing their right to free­dom of as­so­ci­a­tion, free­dom of ex­pres­sion, and free­dom of assem­bly… It is im­por­tant to let the Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties know that the en­tire world is watch­ing its re­sponse to the le­git­i­mate de­mands of the youth…” the coali­tion said.

THE North­ern Coali­tion of Civil So­ci­ety Groups, is call­ing on # ENDSARS pro­test­ers to re­di­rect at­ten­tion and join them in de­mand­ing im­me­di­ate end to killings and de­struc­tion of lives in the North.

The coali­tion, which ad­dressed a press con­fer­ence at Arewa House, Kaduna at the week­end, also asked the Fed­eral Govern­ment to de­ploy same en­ergy used in the dis­band­ment of SARS to end in­se­cu­rity in the North.

The Coali­tion led by Yusuf Amoke said, “we have wit­nessed a huge protest and demon­stra­tion for cit­i­zens right all across the coun­try, no­table is the # ENDSARS protest that has not only at­tracted the phys­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion of no­table per­son­al­i­ties in the sport­ing and en­ter­tain­ment and other in­dus­tries, but has wit­nessed vir­tual par­tic­i­pa­tion of no­table in­ter­na­tional per­son­al­i­ties and or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“This uni­son, in de­mand and mo­bil­i­sa­tion strength, cou­pled with the lis­ten­ing ten­den­cies of the govern­ment, has re­sulted in the scrap­ing of the unit of the po­lice force. The bru­tal­ity of SARS in some parts of the coun­try with hor­rid de­tails was too much to bear, and there­fore con­demnable in strong terms.

“We wish to use this op­por­tu­nity to lend our voices of sup­port and en­cour­age­ment to the young men and women of our gen­er­a­tion who rose up against SARS bru­tal­ity, which led to the govern­ment’s quick re­sponse to the de­mands,” the coali­tion stated, adding, “the re­al­ity in the protest to end SARS is ob­vi­ously real. But those protests com­ing af­ter­wards is call­ing for se­ri­ous concerns. As a re­sult, we have itemised some of our de­mands to the Fed­eral Govern­ment and to the pro­test­ers as well. The Govern­ment should use sim­i­lar en­ergy and re­spon­sive­ness as used in end­ing SARS to end in­se­cu­rity in the North.

“Govern­ment should re­de­ploy mem­bers of the de­funct SARS to some voli­tile north­ern states to help con­tain the in­se­cu­rity as re­quested by the gover­nor of Borno State and other North­ern lead­ers.

“On a per­ma­nent ba­sis, govern­ment should de­ploy se­cu­rity per­son­nel on the Kaduna - Abuja high­way to en­sure safety of cit­i­zens.

MEAN­WHILE, a group, the All Pro­gres­sives Con­gress ( APC) Young Stake­hold­ers, has can­vassed the un­der­stand­ing of # ENDSARS pro­test­ers across the coun­try, and called on them to leave the streets.

The spokesper­son of the group, Nuhu Shehu, at a press con­fer­ence in Abuja, ar­gued that the call was aimed at al­le­vi­at­ing the suf­fer­ing of Nige­ri­ans af­fected by the ac­tiv­i­ties of the pro­test­ers.

The group ap­plauded the pro­test­ers on the feat so far achieved, es­pe­cially with the dis­so­lu­tion of SARS and the acceptance of the five­point de­mands that came with it.

Promis­ing to li­aise with the APC- led ad­min­is­tra­tion to en­sure the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the de­mands, it stated: “It is time to give the govern­ment a chance to work on these prom­ises. Any fur­ther dis­com­fort, or even loss of life can­not be jus­ti­fied. We ask our fel­low youths, to please leave the streets for their houses and places of work or busi­nesses.

“We ask them to stop putting them­selves and oth­ers at risk. We want no fur­ther deaths. There is no need for any more blood­shed. As young stake­hold­ers of the gov­ern­ing party, we prom­ise to put enough pres­sure on the govern­ment to en­sure that these re­forms are speedy, com­plete and com­pre­hen­sive,” the group added.

CON­VERSELY, the World Igbo Con­gress ( WIC) has thrown its weight be­hind the on­go­ing protests, say­ing the cur­rent ag­i­ta­tion for po­lice re­form is long over­due.

The group, in a state­ment signed by its Ex­ec­u­tive Board Chair­man, Prof. Anthony Ejio­for, said: “The World Igbo Con­gress has ex­pressed sol­i­dar­ity with Nige­ri­ans for demon­strat­ing that power truly be­longs to the elec­torate, not the elected, the ag­i­ta­tion for po­lice re­form is over­due be­cause a bet­ter polic­ing sys­tem would serve all Nige­ri­ans, in­clud­ing the politi­cians, and we sup­port any plan that will stop un­nec­es­sary killings of our youths.

“World Igbo Con­gress ex­pects all the groups in­volved in the protests to main­tain a peace­ful ac­tion, and we call on the govern­ment se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus to en­sure that life and prop­erty are pro­tected in the in­ter­est of the coun­try.

“The protest is not an il­le­gal ac­tion; it is a civic re­spon­si­bil­ity, and the govern­ment must treat it as such, and must avoid any counter- mea­sure that will es­ca­late it. We ex­pect only gen­uine mea­sure that will ad­dress all the is­sues.”

IGBO so­cio- cul­tural group, Ohanaeze Youth Coun­cil ( OYC), yes­ter­day, de­manded the un­con­di­tional re­lease of Igbo youths wrongly de­tained by SARS across the coun­try.

Na­tional Pres­i­dent of OYC,

Mazi Okechukwu Isigu­zoro, in a state­ment in Abaka­liki, called for the es­tab­lish­ment of ju­di­cial pan­els to probe po­lice bru­tal­ity and killings adding that those in­volved should be brought to book.

“We want to thank all Nige­ria youths that came out to protest against the po­lice bru­tal­ity and extra ju­di­cial killings in the coun­try. OYC ap­plauds IGP Mo­ham­mad Adamu for the timely dis­so­lu­tion of the SARS, which has caused ex­ces­sive harm to the Nige­ria pop­u­lace. The dis­banded SARS with their hirelings, trumped up false crim­i­nal al­le­ga­tions against cit­i­zens, and ex­ploited them in the process.

“We have for­warded five pages of pe­ti­tion on de­ten­tion of Igbo sons that were wrong­ful ac­cused of per­pe­trat­ing crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties and are cur­rently lan­guish­ing in var­i­ous po­lice cells in the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in Lagos State.

“We call on IGP to in­ves­ti­gate and dis­charge in­no­cent Igbo sons and Bi­afra ag­i­ta­tors, be­cause, OYC em­barked on thor­ough and com­pre­hen­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tions and dis­cov­ered that about 2000 youths of Igbo ex­trac­tion and Bi­afra ag­i­ta­tors are lau­guish­ing in po­lice for­ma­tions in most parts of Nige­ria.

“OYC ap­peals to Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari- led fed­eral govern­ment and IGP to ei­ther charge them to court or un­con­di­tion­ally re­lease them from de­ten­tion to rein­te­grate with their fam­i­lies.”

THE Na­tional Demo­cratic Front ( NDF) has warned in­di­vid­u­als and groups hid­ing un­der the guise of the # ENDSARS protest to de­mand Pres­i­dent Buhari’s res­ig­na­tion to de­sist from do­ing that.

Ac­cord­ing to the NDF, the agenda of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Global Youth Peace Em­pow­er­ment and De­vel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive ( OGYPEDI), and oth­ers is un­ac­cept­able and po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

The NDF al­leged that the peace­ful protests have been hi­jacked by “crisis en­tre­pre­neur” aim­ing to trig­ger the sec­ond pha­lanx of the at­tack on the Fed­eral Govern­ment, by cre­at­ing the im­pres­sion of wide­spread dis­con­tent. In a state­ment signed by its Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral, Dr. Ab­dulka­dir Bo­laji, the group rub­bished OGYPEDI, adding that Pres­i­dent Buhari has im­pacted a huge num­ber of Nige­rian youth with the Na­tional So­cial In­vest­ment Pro­grammes.

It, there­fore, im­plored in­no­cent Nige­ri­ans join­ing the protest and de­mand­ing for Pres­i­dent Buhari’s res­ig­na­tion to take a deeper look at what they are tak­ing part in and ask crit­i­cal ques­tions.

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