Human Rights Activist and field researcher of the Global Amnesty Watch, Terrance Kuanum, has stated that the Launch of Exercise Crocodile Smile by the Nigerian Army would not clamp down on peaceful protesters across the country.
He stated this during an interview with newsmen on Sunday.
Kuanum believed that the Nigerian Army has evolved into a professional force with respect for human rights.
According to him, “The Nigerian Army of today is not what it used to be. This is what most Nigerians have not come to realize. I say this in my capacity as a field researcher that has traversed most parts of the country and where the Nigerian Army are in operation in North-East Nigeria, as well as other parts of the country. The conduct I must state has been exceptional.
“This is not the first operation or exercise the Nigerian Army has conducted. Don’t forget that only recently, Operation Sahel Sanity was extended for a further three months and its scope expanded to include states in North Central. And I must add that they have conducted themselves most professionally that resulted in tremendous success.”
On the timing of the launch of Exercise Crocodile Smile to coincide with the protest across the country, the Human Rights activist rubbished the claims that it was intended to clamp down on peaceful protesters demanding reforms for the Nigerian Police Force.
“I disagree with such a position. I am not sure the Chief of Army Staff would sanction such a move owing to his track record in ensuring that the operations of the Nigerian Army conform to human rights tenets. We must not also forget in a hurry that indeed the Nigerian Army has a Human rights desk across all its units and formations to investigate complaints from individuals, organizations and institution on rights violation involving Nigerian Army personnel.
“If this has been the norm, why on earth would one imagine that the Nigerian Army would clampdown on peaceful protesters before the full glare of the whole world. If not for anything they should know that this is the digital age and almost all the protesters have smartphones with which they use to capture proceedings. It would be indeed foolhardy for such to happen. I think Nigerians must be circumspect in their assumptions at the risk of heating an already tensed polity,” he said.
Kuanum also stated that the bulk of the misinformation making the rounds concerning the launch of Exercise Crocodile Smile might be the handiwork of those that intend to capitalise and hijack the peaceful protest to achieve their aim.
He said, “As a field researcher, over the years, I have come to understand some of the dynamics inherent in the Nigerian society. We must realize that at every point in time, there are various interest struggling for relevance to the pursuit of their agenda. There are those whose stock in trade is to fan the embers of war so that their businesses can thrive. Some want to advance their political interest, and the only way they could get that done easily is to instigate conflict and spread mischief. Some are experts in causing distractions in the country so they can perpetuate their nefarious activities.
“It is indeed a complicated chain we are dealing with, and I won’t be surprised that there are certain interests that have seen this peaceful protest by the youths as the perfect opportunity to discredit the government and the emphasis is to hijack it and cause mayhem of unquantifiable dimension. I think the launch of Exercise Crocodile Smile indeed rattled them and they have elected to spread misinformation across the country. Was the mandate of Exercise Crocodile Smile not explicit?
“The Nigerian Army has said its upcoming Exercise Crocodile Smile will tackle cyber warfare and insurgency in the country, particularly in the North-East, where Boko Haram insurgents have caused massive destruction. If this is the operational mandate, how does one then link it with an attempt to clampdown on peaceful protesters?”
He added that Nigerians must understand that there is a grand plot being hatched to cause violence in the country by some individuals and organisations.
“Without mincing words, I believe those that are afraid of Crocodile Smile are those with ulterior motives. Not the peaceful protesters because so far they have conducted themselves in an appreciable manner devoid of confrontation or provocation. They are only demanding for an end to police brutality and a reform of the Nigerian Police Force. I do not see a crime in that, and I also do not see a justification for the Nigerian Army to clampdown on the protesters.
“It would indeed be a great disservice if the Nigerian Army does clamp down on the protesters, and not on the heels of the numerous initiatives that have been introduced by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen TY Buratai towards the entrenchment of respect for the rule of law and tenets of human rights.
“I believe the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen TY Buratai has set a very high standard in terms of human rights and the citizens have no reason to fear the troops at any point. But those that are planning to foment trouble by hijacking the protest to their advantage should have every reason to be afraid. This is my candid opinion,” he said.
On the effectiveness of such operations when there is widespread protest across the country, Kuanum stated that the exercise is timely and would go a long way to identify and track down terrorist operating in the cyber world.
He said, “We must admit that Nigeria has been experiencing cyber-attacks in recent times that is capable of undermining our territorial integrity. And it is to the credit of the Nigerian Army that such an operation is launched, which is an indication of advancement in the operations of the Nigerian Army. I believe if the Nigerian Army does not have such capacity, it will not launch an operation.
“It is my considered opinion that the operation is timely and it behoves on well-meaning Nigerians to extend their support to the Nigerian Army by refusing to be misled by those vested interests that have ulterior motives occasioned by the misinformation passing the rounds. It must also be realized that the threat to Nigeria’s sovereignty transcends beyond the physical, and that is the orientation that must change. This is indeed a proactive step by the Nigerian Army.”