By Innocent Anaba, Henry Ojelu & Onozure Dania
Last week, the Nigerian Army announced plans to extend its Operation Positive Identification to other parts of the country.
The decision according to army authorities is to crack down on members of Boko Haram, who may have fled to the South from the North East. Laudably as the idea appears, cross sections of lawyers have expressed divergent opinion on the operation which has now been momentarily halted by a Federal High Court.
Those who spoke to Vanguard Law and Human Right include, Prof Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, John Odubela, SAN, Prof Sam Erugo, Mr Malachy Ugwummadu, Kabir Akingbolu, David Fadile, Chimaobi Onuigbo, Ige Asemudara, Yemi Omodele, Debo Adeleke, Victor Mbanaso and Emmanuel Ochai.
Army should be given a guideline- Prof Ojukwu
“We are in a dilemma between stemming the big challenges of terrorism and high crimes in the country and protecting on a blanket level the human rights of the citizen. That is why there is a huge cry against deploying the army in civilian territories to enforce war front rules such as show your positive ID.
“Normally the Police should be the agency tackling all our internal security and crime with the help of other crime agencies but there is clear evidence that the Police are not able to cope. There is no crime associated with lack of ID on a person and it would be grossly an abuse of human rights to enforce such blanket policy. But law enforcement agents are authorised in their crime prevention duties to request positive identification of a person they suspect of carrying out a criminal conduct or involved in one or planning one.
“Though the army does not share the primary responsibilities of the police, yet the army can help the Police and as delegates, any arrest of any person ought to be reported to the Police immediately and the suspect handed over to the Police. The Army can be very helpful in our present situation. It is true that the army has shown too much propensities to abuse human rights in some cases in the extreme when embedded among civilians and even go out to extort civilians as shown at their checkpoints.
“Happily for this present your ID policy, the Army has clarified that it won’t be applied as a blanket action across the country. For me, instead of banning them from helping us stem the tide of crime and security challenges, both the National Assembly and the Executive should issue the Army guidelines they must comply with whenever they are requested to assist the Police in their primary role. Such guidelines must focus them on their responsibility towards civilians and our human rights. We need the Army right now. We should not shy away from engaging them on their standards and conduct towards those they have been called upon to protect.”
Nothing wrong with the plan- Odubela
“Personally I see it as a security matter. I don’t see anything wrong in it and the only challenge is the implementation and that is where the military authority needs to be extremely careful in not infringing in the fundamental rights of the citizens in the process of implementation.
“ We all see where we are as a country in terms of the security in our country and it has become a responsibility of every citizen to ensure that we co operate with the security agencies in course of carrying out their duties in the protection of the lives and properties of the citizens.”
The exercise is illegal- Prof Erugo,
“Of course, the exercise is illegal, ostensibly unconstitutional. They can’t justify the exercise by any rule of law. I have always canvassed that in peace time, the Army/Armed forces have no business being on the road, in whatever guise. They are not trained to deal with the civilian populace. Even the road blocks without more, are clear signs of a militarized state, and when you assess the activities of the men on the road, the exercise ought to be resisted.
“One wonders why an army facing something close to war in the South East should be deployed to cause panic in other peaceful parts of the country. It is an illegal exercise. I endorse the agitations and court action. But, will they respect the authority of the court, or obey eventual court orders?
Operation is suspicious- Ugwummadu
“Not every Nigerian is a member of the Boko Haram sect. Thus, if the targets are members of the sect, then it will be a wild goose chase railroading everyone into the scheme. The implication is that legitimate members of the society pursuing genuine jobs and activities are equally subjected to wanton abuse of their right to freely move under section 41 (1) of Constitution of FRN (1999).
“ In the circumstance, it is our humble suggestion albeit advice, that the commanding height of the Nigeria Military must creatively evolve means in conjunction with the DSS and National Intelligence Agency, NIA and secret security services by which I isolate suspected members of the Boko Haram sect leveraging on technology and intelligence in tracking suspected offenders of the law.
“Granted that there are circumstances in which the right of Nigerians to movement under section 41 can be curtailed, such abridgement can only be justifiable if it is pursuant to a valid legislation made by the National Assembly. In this case, there is none neither was there any form of sensitization on the proposed operation. Considering also that the military under the Constitution and the Nigerian and the Armed Forces Act has limited role(s) to play in internal security.
These operations have become suspect and presently constitute a danger to the very foundation and survival of democracy in Nigeria. Certainly, the ever increasing but avoidable incidence of the brutality and extra judicial killings by law enforcement agencies will increase if this operation is allowed to stay considering the track records and documented reports of abuses by Nigerian military.
It is an idle assignment -Akingbolu
In all honesty, this is a very wrong step. It is a very wrong step being taken by the wrong agency, at the wrong time and for a wrong reason. Issue of identification or apprehension of criminal or pseudo-escapee from the North East of the country or wherever is not the duty of the Nigerian Army as it were.
“ To say the least, it is an abrasion or violation of section 4 of the Police Act which invests the police with the power to detect and apprehend offenders. Trying to identify people for purposes of arrest and or prosecution amounts to investigation which in turn, is not only a usurpation of police power under the law but also a violation of the constitution. Under the constitution, the Army has the sole duty and responsibilities of defending the nation against external aggression and defending its territorial integrity.
“Therefore, apart from the fact that the Army at present has enough to tackle or grapple with in terms of internal security threats from different militia groups like Boko Haram, kidnappers and others in that ilk, do not have the power under the law to delve into issue of asking for people to identify themselves. It is an idle assignment.”
Buhari should halt the operation- Fadile
“Section 217 CFRN 1999 as amended established the Armed Forces of the Federation and Section 2 of Sec 217 list out the functions of the Armed Forces of the Federation. However Sec 2sub ( d) empower the National Assembly to confer additional responsibilities on the Armed Forces via legislation. I am very much aware that there is no legislation or an Act by the National Assembly empowering the Nigerian Army to embark on this misadventure.
“How would they identify the escaped criminals bearing in mind that most Nigerians have no means of identification. The National ldentity card registration is still ongoing and no one knows whether it has actually captured the bio data of every Nigerian. Again what happened to those without means of identification? I am of the view that the Nigerian Army is terribly less busy otherwise this is the constitutional responsibility of the Nigerian Police.
“Aside, the Army by their operation is not trained to deal with civil populace as against the Nigerian Police. I passionately call on the Commander of the Armed Forces that is the President of the Federal Republic to as a matter of urgency halt this process otherwise we are in for a serious trouble.”
Operation could create more problems- Onuigbo “The Nigerian Army is mandated to provide security for the citizens and sometimes may have to bring policies that will facilitate the process security in the country.
The Northern part of Nigeria has been inundated with several security challenges owing to illegal immigrants. Some of them are said to be from neighboring countries- Chad and Mali.
If the identification scheme is targeted at sniffing out foreigners who are terrorist located in Nigeria then it is positive. However, if there are ulterior motives behind it then we must vehemently oppose the scheme. The mode of its operations will attest.
The Nigerian Army must approach this exercise with civility as connected to a democratic society like ours is. “One fact to note is that Terrorist do not operate in the open, they are highly covet.
To think that terrorist can be apprehended on the streets is to play down the operations of a terrorist group. The world over the root of the terrorist groups is what extinguished terrorist operations. Also Nigerians as a people are very animated and are less sedentary: To attempt to get the Identification of
Nigerians on the streets could lead to all kinds of upheavals and insecurity in the land… This could create more security concerns than we have already in the South.
“Finally, Boko Horam group and people are easily identifiable. Their physical look and voice inflections intonations can identify them and a further investigation could lead to who they really are. This exercise should not be used to violate the rights of the Nigerian people but made to secure the lives of Nigerians and its territories.”
It is a sign of totalitarianism-Asemudara
“Do we have identity issue? Are we in a state of emergency? You see the truth is that this government is a very dictatorial one and it’s heading towards totalitarianism. What has the civilian populace in the South got to do with it? It is an aberration. Nigerians are no longer at ease and the government wants to compound it. It is an exercise in breach of the rights of Nigerians especially those of us down south who are not really dealing with any crisis situation.
It must be stopped. If that army is our army, we are requesting that they should stop that operation. They must stop.
Army should be called to order-Omodele
The action and inaction of the Nigerian Army on the issue of positive identification which suit has been filed before a court of competent jurisdiction by a concerned Nigerian and a lawyer challenging the validity of such identification should be put on hold by the proponent of such act. It is subjudice. However, the government of the day is the appointer of the leaders of the Nigerian Army should call them to order. The civil rights of Nigerians is more than that of the Nigerian army.
Free movement of the citizens is a constitutional right. Nigerian army should not think we are animals. They missed the steps. They are a lot of ways Boko Haram members could be tracked down without embarrassing other innocent citizens who are going about their daily needs. There is no how the Nigerian army will carry out the identification without infringing on Nigerians’ rights. Nigerian army be careful.
It is a good development- Adeleke
“The above is a welcome development. Those who are kicking against it are enemies of progress. In fact some of them are largely attention seekers. No Nigerian in his or her right senses will condemn any step by the Military and or police as excessive.
These people are just working against the progress cum peaceful co-existence of Nigeria.
They are not been Sincere with themselves.”
It is unnecessary – Mbanaso
“That exercise is absolutely unnecessary and is most likely a smokescreen for the continued harassment and subjugation of innocent southerners. Boko Haram is ravaging a part of the nation and the fight against them should be concentrated there, it’s only when you have completely dislodged all of them that you can talk about hunting them to the places they may have dispersed to.
“Again this decision among many others make a strong statement about the incompetence of the government of the day, policing the polity is ordinarily the work of the police, if there is a situation that is out of the ordinary, the solution is to be responsive by equipping and training them to make them equal to the task.
“This is akin to closing the borders of the nation because those charged with the task of policing the borders are not competent; why not insist on making them competent rather than making innocent ones suffer? Now the government want to militarise the society when there is no need? I repeat that this is in furtherance of the rule of fear characteristic of this government. It should be resisted.
Police can handle the exercise- Ochai
Nigeria in recent years has experienced a lot of security challenges and sometimes these challenges require desperate measures to tackle these security challenges. However, the place of the army is not to harass innocent citizens under the guise of operation positive identification. It is my view that, the police are in a better position to handle this issue.