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PROTESTS: Nigerians React as Army Launches Exercise Crocodile Smile

PROTESTS: Nigerians React as Army Launches Exercise Crocodile Smile 

Authorities in Nigeria are bracing for a showdown with the ongoing #EndSARS protests across the country, as the Nigerian Army announced on Saturday that Exercise Crocodile Smile 6, will commence on Tuesday, October 20.

Observers have told Nigerian Sketch this is a pretext to quell agitations by the Nigeria youth for a better security arrangement in the country, using military might.

But the Army hierarchy has said it has nothing to do with the protests.

The Exercise Crocodile Smile 6 will also involve 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.”

it is thought that this development sprang up in response to the clamour by the protesting youths in Lagos State and other locations across the country for President Muhammadu Buhari to resign.

Earlier, the Nigerian Army had issued a warning to “subversive elements and trouble makers” to desist after a week of protests.

Army spokesman, 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 that sounded threatening, Sagir said the army would “support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively.”

While announcing the military exercise, Musa said it 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 Cyberwarfare 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.

Surprisingly however, the army, in a separate release, said Exercise Crocodile Smile has nothing to do with #EndSARS protests.

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.”

A group of civil societies in the country has however warned the federal government against using the military to quell the ongoing nationwide protests.

In a statement released in Abuja on Saturday, 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.”

They said 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 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 anti-democratic 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.

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