Soldiers took positions in Abuja as part of the mandate to secure Abuja and stratetegic facilities, as well as the Asokoro district which houses the Presidential Villa, the official seat of power and residence of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and their families, Everyday.ng has learnt.
But activist lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana, has cautioned the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, and his men that they risk facing the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague if any of the #EndSARS protesters is killed.
Falana, in a statement as the Chairman of the Alliance for Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to invite soldiers to resolve a purely democratic issue that calls for dialogue and constructive engagement.
Youths across Nigeria have kept up their 12 days old protest to end Police brutality and sundry issues that have bedevilled the country for decades.
The Army Brigade of Guards protects the President and his immediate vicinity which stretches as far as Zuba, Giri, and Mogadishu Barracks, a stone-throw from the A.Y.A. Roundabout.
The roundabout is less than two and half kilometers to one of the gates of the Presidential Villa.
#EndSARS protesters had announced that they planned to take over A.Y.A. roundabout by Monday, which caused the security agencies to scramble a quick response that effectively kept away protesters, but most civil and public servants could not make it to their offices as protesters blocked other points on the Abuja-Lafia expressway.
But the Police engaged and tear gassed protesters who attempted to to access the Villa through the John Kennedy street entrance.
It was also gathered that the soldiers who flooded the streets of Abuja on Monday were not those meant to be part of the Nigerian Army Operation Crocodile Smile VI, but the Army has been hard-pressed to convince the general public as to the coincidence of the exercise.
The Army on Sunday denied that the operation was aimed at disrupting the ongoing #EndSARS protests across the country.
It said this year’s Exercise Crocodile Smile VI scheduled to commence from Tuesday 20th of October to the 31 of December 2020 had no relationship with any lawful protest under any guise whatsoever.
“To now insinuate that it is an exercise meant to stifle the ongoing ENDSARS protest is to say the least highly misinformed.
“Exercise Crocodile Smile VI has nothing to do with the ongoing protest and the Nigerian Army has never been involved in the ongoing protest in any form whatsoever”, it said.
Col. Sagir Musa, the Army spokesman said in a statement that so far, the army had 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.
“This year’s Exercise Crocodile Smile is scheduled to commence from the 20 of October to the 31 of December 2020 has no relationship with any lawful protest under any guise whatsoever,” he said.
However, Falana’s ASCAB said: “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. 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 Mohammadu 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.”