News of an operation tagged Operation Positive Identification by the Nigerian Army slowly swept the airwaves on October 28. Information on the operation included warnings such as instructing Nigerians to always carry their identification cards and to ‘Dress Responsibly.’ The operation which is also announced to last between November 1 and December 23, did not give any reason for the highly controversial and sudden declaration.
The first reaction of most Nigerians was to question the motive behind such an operation by the Army. Social media began to buzz with opposing views which tagged the move as one which returned us back to the junta days of military high-handedness.
What was surprising in fact was that the Army also tried to deny Operation Positive Identification initially. It would not be until a suit filed by Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), challenging the constitutional legality of the operation that the Army came forward with reasons for why the controversial operation is necessary.
The army made a bogus claim that the operation was only for the security of Nigerians as it would help identify and expose bandits who are making a huge influx into the country through the porous borders of the country. The army also claimed that the operation has been in effect in the North previously and with the positive results being seen, is now being extended to other parts of the country to ensure national security.
While the new claim by the Army is patriotic and lofty enough, does it really exist within the boundaries of what the constitutional powers of the Nigerian Army entail? In the suit filed by Falana, the constitutional lawyer claimed that only the police is entrusted with the responsibility and power of ensuring security within the country and not the army. But we also know that the police does not have sufficient apparatuses to ensure lives and properties of citizens are secured as the army, nor does any other known special security department exist for the purpose of maintaining internal security within the country since the Department of State Security allegedly dipped its hands into politics.
For instance, in developed countries like the United States (U.S), security departments such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) exist independently of the police and army with the definite purpose of preventing crime within the U.S, investigating special crimes and maintaining a secure state. However, in the Nigerian parlance, the police force is very much underfunded and undertrained. As a result, this conundrum often comes into play and provides the army with enough grounds to be called upon to step into the shoes of the Nigerian Police Force.
It is an administrative problem which can be solved with a simple overhaul of the security architecture of the country. While the army should be busy fighting to maintain the territorial integrity of the Nigerian state and the police busy with maintaining law and order within the country, other intelligence and security units than the army and the police should exist for such purposes of preventing crime.
Without such procedural changed added to the security architecture of the nation, concerns are that the citizens might never feel comfortable with a soldier randomly asking them for their identity cards. As long as the Federal Government continues to deploy the army to random operations like the controversial ‘Operation Python Dance’ in the South-east, the people might trust the government’s intentions. The people will keep feeling choked by the mere approach of men in boots. The people will keep being reminded of the horrible days of military intimidation during the junta and lament that even in a democracy, we are running a government similar to a military regime.
It is not too late for the government to correct these administrative anomalies which may continue to pit them against the people. It, therefore, behoves the Buhari administration to take pragmatic steps towards achieving a secure state by following the footsteps of other developed nations.
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