A leading coalition of labour and civil society groups, the Alliance for the Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond, has asked the Nigerian Government to withdraw plans to use soldiers to quell the #EndSARS protests rocking major cities across the country.
ASCAB in a statement by its Chairman, Femi Falana, said the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, or any of his men risk facing the International Criminal Court in the Hague if any of the protesters was killed.
The group said protests have 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 had soldiers being deployed to suppress the protesters.
The statement reads, “Nigeria wants to set another ugly precedence in world history. The Federal Government should be reminded that Operation Crocodile Smile has been declared illegal by Nigeria court with competent jurisdiction following legal actions filed by Mr Femi Falana and efforts by the Chief of Army Staff to challenge the order by approaching the Court of Appeal met a brickwall.
“ASCAB 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).
“Every bullet that goes out from the barrel of the gun, is owned by 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 rights extra-judicial killings associated with the protests and that any Nigerian soldier involved in killings will be held personally responsible at the international court.
ASCAB said peaceful protests are the only way Nigerians are entitled under the constitution to register their grievances against a system that suffocates them.
The group said the protests were against symptoms of a system defect, institutional corruption and political exclusion, adding that the earlier the tiers of government addressed the problems the better.
“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 Muhammadu 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,” it added.