A leading coalition of labour and civil society groups,
Alliance for Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond, (ASCAB), has warned that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai or any of his men risk facing the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague if any of the #ENDSARs protesters is killed.
In a statement on Sunday by its Chairman, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), the group urged the Federal Government to withdraw plans to use soldiers to quell the protests that have rocked major cities across Nigeria.
The Nigerian Army had announced plans to commence its annual military exercise tagged Operation Crocodile Smile nationwide Tuesday.
The Army Acting Director Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, had said the exercise would hold from October 20 to December 31.
The planned military operation is however coming at a time Nigerian youths are staging #EndSARS protests around the country to protest police brutality.
The protest which began penultimate week peaked at the weekend when more cities joined the movement.
ASCAB in its statement asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to invite soldiers to resolve a purely democratic issue that calls for dialogue and constructive engagement.
The group noted protests had common features across the world as seen in Hong Kong, United States, France, South Africa, Belarus and even in Sudan adding that in no instance were soldiers deployed to suppress the protesters.
“Nigeria wants to set another ugly precedence in world history,” the group said.
It reminded the Federal Government that Operation Crocodile Smile has been declared illegal by Nigeria Court with competent jurisdiction following legal actions filed by Mr Femi Falana.
ASCAB added that efforts by the Chief of Army Staff to challenge the order by approaching the Court of Appeal met a brickwall. It recalled that the Federal High Court in July this year granted a perpetual injunction restraining the Army from such an exercise in Femi Falana SAN v Chief of Army Staff (FHV/L/CS/1939/19)
The coalition said every bullet fired from the barrel of the gun, belonged to the people of Nigeria adding that it is a crime under international law to release these bullets with the hope of taking human life. ASCAB said it was unfortunate that the Nigerian government was sending a signal to the military that it had a role to play in a purely civil matter.
The group said it was already monitoring and compiling lists of all extra-judicial killings associated with the protests and that any Nigerian, Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and the soldiers involved in any killings will be held personally responsible at the international court.
ASCAB said peaceful protests were the only way Nigerians were entitled under the Nigerian constitution to register their grievances against a system that suffocates them.
“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” ASCAB said.
“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.”
ASCAB said the protests were against symptoms of a system defect, institutional corruption and political exclusion adding that the earlier the tiers of government address the problems the better.
“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.”
The group said at the bottom of the crisis of nation building and insecurity in Nigeria was corruption, mismanagement of public funds and incompetence at all levels of governance.
The group said, “Over N250bn is voted as security vote for the 36 state governors annually. This money is enough to retrain and reenergize the police towards effective performance. Unfortunately, the funds are taken by the State Governors as largesse which they never account for.”
ASCAB urged the police authorities to bring to justice all officers and ratings associated with human rights violations in the command.
The group said policing in Nigeria needs transformation and not mere reforms which should go beyond a cosmetic and window dressing approach.