“This year’s Exercise CROCODILE SMILE is scheduled to commence from the 20th of October to the 31st of December 2020 has no relationship with any lawful protest under any guise whatsoever,” Army spokesman Sagir Musa said in a statement.
“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.”
Nigerians protesting against brutality, extortion, harassment and extrajudicial killing by police personnel have consistently marched in different states to register their agitation for close to two weeks.
Many groups condemned the timing of the exercise and believed it will lead to the violation of citizens’ right to peaceful protest.
Prominent Nigerians, including the Aare Onakankanfo of Yoruba Land, Otunba Gani Adams, President of Uma Ukpai Evangelist Association, Rev (Dr) Uma Ukpai, former lawmaker who represented Oyo South Senatorial District, Femi Lanlehin, and President General, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Prince Osibote, warned against the use of force on protesters.
The Army spokesman, however, dispelled the insinuations it said were untrue.
“To now insinuate that it is an exercise meant to stifle the ongoing ENDSARS protest is to say the least highly misinformed,” Musa said, “Exercise CROCODILE SMILE VI has nothing to do with the ongoing protest and the 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.
“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 to train NA officers and soldiers in its efforts to ensuring safety and security of Nigeria and her citizens.”