President Muhammadu Buhari rejected a request made by General Tukur Buratai, Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, that soldiers be deployed to quell the ongoing nationwide #EndSARS protests.
The reason, the President reportedly said, is because such approach could backfire.
Peoples Gazette citing presidency and two military sources briefed on the matter Wednesday night reports the President contended that heavily armed soldiers with directive to open fire should be the last resort — if at all they’ll be considered — because of the spontaneous and elaborate nature of the ongoing pushback against decades police brutality.
The sources also reportedly said Buratai and some of his generals are increasingly furious that #EndSARS protesters have refused to stand down.
According to the report, Buratai sought the president’s permission to deploy soldiers to disperse protesters and take over demonstration grounds in Lagos and Abuja.
The official said Buhari fear that the protests could grow bigger if any attempt is made to use soldiers to violently suppress it.
“The president is wary of escalating the situation,” a senior administration official was quoted as saying shortly after 11:00 p.m, adding “He does not want this to backfire because there are many locations that protests are holding across the country.”
Chief of staff Ibrahim Gambari was amongst those who advised the president against troops deployment.
National security adviser Babagana Monguno did not take part in the meeting but a source said he would be briefed. The Gazette noted it has yet to establish whether or not the NSA was briefed, and a telephone number for him did not immediately connect Wednesday night.
The Army chief’s proposal followed a week-long demonstration that has refused to wane despite government acceding to some of the key requests from the protesters.
On Sunday, police chief Mohammed Adamu announced immediate abolition of the special anti-robbery squad, a police detective unit whose decades of corruption and ruthlessness sparked the world-famous hashtag.
He also announced a new unit that would replace the defunct brutal squad.
Buhari in additional repeatedly assured that his administration would take police reforms more seriously, but urged protesters to embrace dialogue around a sustainable solution.
The protesters have declined to end the campaign until at least five fundamental issues that border on citizens’ rights and restitution thousands of SARS victims.
But top government and security appointees of the president are seething and “now itching” to do something immediately.
Their desperation followed several advises that they have given the president over the past week; including some without any form of law enforcement intervention.
A military source said the president and his key insiders are reluctant to take a straight position because they are still learning to understand the main actors of the protests.
“The president may still be asking for time to better understand the protesters first,” a military brass-hat told the Gazette. “But the president recognises that these categories of protesters are not the same as members of the Shiite sect.”
Buratai’s request comes as the Nigerian Army announced it is ready to defend the country and its democracy at all cost.
Sagir Musa, acting army director of army public relations, warned “subversive elements and trouble makers” to desist from any action that will affect the country in a statement on Wednesday.
Thousands of Nigerians have been protesting against police brutality, extortion and killings across the country.
On Tuesday, a video of some soldiers assaulting a cameraman working for ARISE TV and seizing his equipment when protesters besieged the national assembly went viral.
A reporter with TheCable also narrated how he escaped being shot by an angry soldier.
In the statement coming a day after the incidents, Musa said the army is “highly” committed to the sustenance of peace and security.
“The Nigerian Army (NA) wishes to reassure law abiding citizens that it is highly committed to the sustenance of peace, security and defence of democracy in Nigeria,” he said.
“As a responsible and law abiding organisation, the NA reaffirms its unalloyed loyalty and commitment to the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari and the constitution of the country.
“The NA 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.
“The NA is ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively. All officers and men are directed never to be distracted by anti democratic forces and agents of disunity.”