Nigerian Army’s ‘Operation Positive Identification’
On November 1, 2019, the Nigerian Army commenced what it tags ‘Operation Positive Identification’. The exercise, according to the military high command, is to flush out ‘undesirable’ elements in the face of daunting security challenges.
Right from when the matter became public knowledge, several Nigerians including the National Assembly have frowned at the OPI and called for its suspension.
The angst or concerns of Nigerians over the OPI is hinged on the history of the military using such opportunities to perpetrate human rights abuses and other sundry violations.
The House of Representatives debating on the resolved that that the Nigerian Army should develop “a pro-people strategy in confronting our security challenges instead of measures that would further victimise the people.”
They also urged the President, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to “review the situation and stop the Army from commencing the planned operation scheduled to begin on November 1, 2019, to make way for further consultations.”
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, said the entire National Assembly should throw its weight behind the call to suspend the Operation Positive Identification, which he described as “the height of insanity and madness”.
The Chairman of the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, Emeka Umeagbalasi, was more direct. He stated, “Apart from being elitist and clear grounds for extortion or roadway bribery, indiscriminate arrests, abductions, torture, extra-judicial and unlawful killings and disappearances; it also expressly means that Nigerians or citizens without such elitist documents including the aging and the underage, automatically become kidnappers, armed robbers, bandits, arsonists, cultists and rapists.”
These concerns are germane and reason why the army should have considered suspending the operations until are grey areas were sorted out.
But in a clime in which the opinions of the people including key institutions like the House of Representatives have taken a stance matters little, the flouting of such calls should be expected as already demonstrated by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.
In a country where citizens go through tortuous route to get valid government issued identity cards, this newspaper can but only imagine what awaits many a Nigerian youth.
The situation is further compounded by biases of a society that views those with dreads, saggy pants, bearing a laptop or having an expensive phone as anathema.
For us at The Abuja Inquirer, it will have been more expedient for the army to camp its personnel along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway which has become largely abandoned by motorists because of the activities of bandits, kidnappers and ritualists.
Nigerians now hold army personnel in odium as they too have abandoned the roads to struggle for seats on the Abuja-Kaduna trains rather than battle the criminals on the highway.
It should be sounded as an alarm that an individual not having an international passport, National ID, driver’s license and or voter’s card is not enough reason for such an individual to be branded a threat the society.
We only hope that the men and officers involved in the operation have been properly briefed on the terms of engagement before they go overboard and further dent the country’s poor human rights record.
Also, we urge citizens to endeavour to have any sort of IDs and have those they can easily reach for “positive identification.” Besides, it takes nothing to be polite and be of best behavior in times such as these.