Insecurity: Reactions trail Operation Positive Identification

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Tukur Buratai
Tukur Buratai

The insistence by the Nigerian army to go ahead with the ‘Operation Positive Identification’ across the country in spite of the intervention by the National Assembly has further showed that there are obvious cracks in government and this development poses a serious threat to the doctrine of separation of powers, which is essential in a democracy  

By Anayo Ezugwu

IT is no longer news that the Nigerian Army has started Operation Positive Identification across the country, what is news is the palpable fear among Nigerians on the exercise. Many Nigerians are not convinced that the military personnel would stick to the rules of engagement, considering their combative nature.

To others, the rationale behind such operation is not clear nor the rules of engagement clearly stated to them. For this reason many Nigerians, including the House of Representatives, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and other groups faulted the exercise. They all called on President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the operation, but unfortunately, the exercise was approved by the president.

Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda, security expert, is among those who are concerned about the exercise. He told Realnews in a telephone interview that the exercise is not a way out of security challenges facing the country. He said this operation exposes the failure of Nigeria as a nation. According to him, it is the failure of the people at the border and the mal-administration of ECOWAS protocol that made criminal elements from other nations to infiltrate the country.

He said it is the immigration that should know what to do to stem out illegal immigrants in this country. Ekpe-Juda charged the Nigeria Immigration Service to step up their efforts in repatriating illegal immigrants in the country. “The military work is not internal affairs. In the first instance, how many Nigerians have ID card? That is the question the military should ask first before coming out to demand for it. I don’t see any need for this kind of exercise. It is the job of the immigration to go round and take out illegal immigrants. They know what to do not the military. They should not go to areas where they do not have the competence.

I see them trying to ride on a very high horse because if what they are saying is true, we are 200 million people in this country, how many soldiers do we have to go around asking people for their identification. What is going on is the failure of the system because right from when I was working, I used to hear about National Identification Card till today, I don’t have it. My children applied for it five years ago and till today the card has not been issued to them.

The military is just trying to do what they cannot do because it is a very big task if you ask me. Are they going to bring all the soldiers to one state to screen everybody there and after that they move to another state? Even if they do that how are they going to control movement of people?

I think it is better for them to look for another thing to do. We know what Operation Python Dance did in the South East? We are not fools and if they want to embark on that kind of operation they better tell us what they want to do rather than cover it with operation show your ID card. Are they going to go to markets, ministries, churches and mosques to ask people to show their identifications?” he said.

Giving a legal perspective to the development, Abdulaziz Ibrahim, lawyer, said the exercise contravenes the fundamental human rights of Nigerians. He said unless the National Assembly declares state of emergency, the military has no powers to do what they are attempting to do. He noted that they don’t have the powers whether assumed or donated by any law in the country.

“The bottom line is that there is no state of emergency declared on any state in the federation yet unless there is something else they are trying to tell us. And I don’t know what the fights among our security agencies really are, everyone trying to outdo the other in impressing the president. That is actually what is going on. The Navy is trying to outdo the police in terms of loyalty to the powers that be. The Customs also are trying to show that they are loyal that is why they attributed the border closure to national security.

“When you have a system where the judicial system has been silenced and muzzled to the extent that leaders in the system are castigated, this is what you get. Like I was discussing with someone, once you allow fear to take over your heart that means you are dead. This is exactly what this government is trying to do by all means possible.

“If people were able to come out in the streets to protest during Abacha’s regime, what stops us now from protesting against this highhandedness? They don’t have the powers to do what they are planning to do. The first is that the National Assembly should declare state of emergency in the country, and then we will know that there is an emergency before the military will be deployed to the street for any exercise,” he said.

On his part, Femi Falana, SAN and human rights lawyer, has asked the court to order the stoppage of the exercise. According to him, the planned nationwide operation from November 1 and end December 23, 2019, by which Nigerian citizens will be required to move about with means of identification is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.

He argued that the planned operation violates his right and that of other Nigerian citizens to liberty, as encapsulated in Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as Amended and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, (Cap A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. He filed along with the suit an order seeking an interim injunction restraining the three defendants from going on with the plan pending the hearing of the substantive suit.

Falana argued that the Nigeria Police Force has the exclusive power to maintain law and order and secure public safety and public order in the country and not the army. He contended that going by section 217(1) of the constitution, the Nigerian President could only deploy the armed forces for the suppression of insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore law and order.

“There is no insurrection in every part of the country which the Nigeria Police cannot contain to warrant the deployment of armed troops all over the country from November 1, 2019 to December 23, 2019. Neither the Constitution nor the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 LFN, 2004 has empowered the Nigerian Army to arrest any citizen who is not subject to service law.

“The 1st respondent (the Nigerian Army) under the leadership of the 2nd respondent is not empowered to take over police duties and the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces lacks the power to deploy members of the armed forces in the maintenance of internal security in any part of the country by virtue of Section 217 (a) (b) and (c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended,” he said.

Despite the concerns and fears of Nigerians, the military has defended the operation, saying that the exercise is meant to flush out foreign combatants that have infiltrated the country. Speaking during his appearance before the House of Representatives Committee on the Army, on Thursday October 31, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, who confirmed that the exercise will go on as planned, said any means of identification would be accepted during the exercise.

Buratai, who was represented by Major General Usman Muhammed, Chief of Civil Military Affairs, admitted that the operation would be conducted nationwide. He said cordons, searches and raids would be done at specific areas where intelligence indicated that there were suspects. He also said President Muhammadu Buhari was aware of the operation. “Essentially, what has been happening is that the military is involved in Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East, which has been going on for several years. Within the major operation, we have subsidiary activities or operations which we undertake. I may not give you all the details but one of them is this OPI.

“Based on credible information and intelligence about the activities of Boko Haram terrorists, they are no more in their enclaves.  We have the information that they are spreading out; away from their traditional strongholds. Based on that, this idea of the OPI came up, so that we can undertake cordon and search operations.  We will, based on intelligence, go to certain areas, cordon it and arrest people. From there, we will identify them and from there, we will make a lot of arrests.

“It actually started on the 22nd of September (in the North-East) and we just felt that when it comes to this time of the year, the military has introduced some exercises. They are all aimed at tackling some of the security challenges within particular geographical zones. The OPI is an intelligence-led activity which, based on credible information, we will go to specific areas and effect arrests, profile and identify them, and from there we will be getting some of the Boko Haram terrorists arrested. I can tell you that from the North-East, you don’t notice change; it is not as if we are going to have increase in number of troops on the roads, no additional checkpoints, no roadblocks. It is all intelligence-led,” he said.

According to Buratai, the military would observe the rules of engagement and code of conduct in the execution of the OPI. He stressed that it would be in collaboration with the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence Agency and the Department of State Services. “It is not something I should say here. We are actually getting information from other technical sources and human intelligence which is actually assisting us in conducting this particular operation we are undertaking. Now extending it across the country does not mean it will be any different. You will not even notice anything.

“Unfortunately, we got information from the social media and the traditional media, even commentaries were being run as to how we are going to conduct the exercise, when even I, in the Army Headquarters, did not hear of some of those things. So, we are surprised when we saw this alert before you. We came up with another one that says it is a fake alert. I just want to submit that the exercise is not anything too different and it is actually something that is going to assist us, as part of our multiplier effect to add value to whatever we are doing in the North-East,” he added.

– Nov. 1, 2019 @ 19:07 GMT |

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