Army’s Prickly Operation Positive Identification 

6

Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521

The Director of Operations and Training of the Nigerian Army, Major General E.O. Udoh initiated the controversy. He stated at a press conference on September 25 in Abuja that the military was extending Operation Positive Identification, first launched in the North-east, to the rest of the country. The General said this would help checkmate terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, ethnic militia, cattle rustlers and other crimes across Nigeria. 

When a post on social media on Tuesday, supposedly by the Army, announced that the prickly operation would commence on November 1, the military quickly dissociated itself from it, saying it was “fake news”. They informed Nigerians that the security advisory should be disregarded. But the military authorities still did not deny the statement of General Udoh. The social media material termed “fake news” appropriately captured the plan revealed by General Udoh. The Army did not also say that the plan had been abandoned. Army Chief, Tukur Buratai affirmed the prickly operation on Thursday when he told the House of Representatives that he would go ahead with it.

It is now clear that Operation Positive Identification would be extended to the rest of Nigeria and the planned operation would see soldiers accosting citizens on the streets or highways and asking them to produce means of identification on the spot. The opposition to the plan did not affect the takeoff date. Nigerians are being warned in advance to carry a valid means of identification like national identity card, voter’s card, driver’s license and international passport, whenever they are going out, to avoid being seen as criminally-minded by the soldiers. A statement signed by Army spokesperson Sagir Musa back in September, urged citizens not to panic on seeing an increased presence of military personnel on the streets.

The speculations about the authenticity of the grumpy operation have been laid to rest. I had to call for the transcript of General Udoh’s press briefing/that of Buratai on Thursday and spent quality time reading them. Honestly, the Army under the leadership of Buratai has missed it on this planned nonsensical attack on the dignity of Nigerians. There is nothing wrong with the Army aiming to secure the country and protecting lives and properties of Nigerians. But there is a lot wrong with accosting people and asking them to produce identity cards. We are not in a police state. People without verifiable identity cards have not committed any offence. Besides, there is no law that says citizens must move around with identity cards.

The statement by the military that it had been taking similar measures to separate citizens from terrorists in the Boko Haram-ravaged northeastern part is garbage. The military claimed that people in the North-east had been cooperating with troops to make the exercise successful by carrying with them valid identity documents. So, what has the Army achieved in the North-east with this? Virtually nothing. Boko Haram and ISWAP are still rampaging, with civilians and soldiers killed daily. Military bases have been commandeered by the terrorists while millions of people are holed up in IDP camps because their villages and towns are still occupied by the terrorists.

Is Buratai saying he is unaware that it is unlawful to ask citizens to carry ID cards? It is illegal to harass people without identity cards. So many Nigerians don’t even have identity cards for a number of reasons. The National Identity Card project is a failure. Many have lost their jobs; so, they don’t have work identity cards. How many people have travelling passports? How many Nigerians have driver’s license? Buratai and his other security chiefs must adopt contemporary policing technique rather than coming up with unpolished and tyrannical tactics aimed at humiliating Nigerians. Law enforcement agents should go after doubtful people, based on intelligence. The military must not subject the entire country to unjustifiable harassment. This idea of trying to intimidate, victimise and extort Nigerians must be shelved.

The Army Chief, if he still has war-capable hands, should move them towards the North-east to effectively combat Boko Haram, instead of looking for Nigerians without identity cards. This exercise is not within the purview of Buratai and his men. For me, our security chiefs clearly lack ideas about how to fight insecurity in our dear country.

It is good that the House of Representatives has spoken out against the planned “operation show your identity cards.” I fully concur with the House Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, who raised a point of order of national importance at the resumption of plenary last Tuesday, urging the House to stop the planned operation, because “it would strip Nigerians of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement.”

Elumelu added: “If allowed, it would downgrade innocent Nigerians to suspects, while it would also instill fear, anxiety and panic in the entire polity. The nationwide operation would also amount to an indirect imposition of a state of emergency across the country by the Army. Such proposed military operations that involve direct contact and regulating of civilians could result in abuses and serious safety issues, especially at this time the nation is battling with the scourge of victimisation and extra-judicial killings.”

The position of rights activist, Femi Falana on the loathsome operation is instructive. He described it as a subtle ploy to foist the obnoxious apartheid policy of the then white minority regime in South Africa on Nigerians: “It is a sad reminder of the illegal practice of the white minority rulers, which compelled Africans to carry pass books outside their homelands or designated areas under the apartheid regime in South Africa. Similar operations such as Operation Python Dance, Operation Scorpion and others conducted by the Army in civilian areas had recently led to reckless arrests, detention and extrajudicial killings of innocent citizens. Since majority of Nigerians do not have any of the Army’s approved means of identification, they would be subjected to unwarranted intimidation and physical attacks by armed soldiers, who would pretend that they were looking for criminal elements.”

Forces of good must put pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that this satanic military operation does not see the light of the day. We are not a subjugated people. Buratai and his men must perish this idea.

Untold Story of the Abduction at Engravers College

Few days after six female students and two staff of Engravers College, Kakau Daji, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State were abducted, Governor Nasir el-rufai told journalists at the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja that he was on top of the situation. Many took him seriously and thought the kidnappers would soon be smashed and the girls/teachers freed. It did not happen. The governor was just showboating. Our lethargic security agents also disappointed the abducted girls and teachers. There was no sign that they ever got close to the kidnappers. In fact, the girls and their teachers spent 23 days in the dungeons of the kidnappers.

The victims eventually secured their freedom, largely based on the efforts of the parents, concerned indigenes of the state and a retired Army officer, who mobilised funds to meet the demands of the kidnappers. The parents had earlier paid a ransom of N3.6 million for the release of the girls, but after collecting the money, the bandits refused to release their victims and made a fresh demand for a ransom of N10 million. They said they had spent the N3.6 million buying bullets and feeding their victims. At the end of the day, N13 .6 million was paid to the kidnappers. Yes, ransom was paid to secure the freedom of these girls and their teachers. Forget about whatever the security agents and Kaduna State Government have been saying. The retired military officer, who anchored the negotiation, had to mobilise his friends to raise a substantial part of the ransom. This was because it became obvious that security agents and the Kaduna State Government were lackadaisical about securing freedom for the girls and their lives were at great risk.

It is a shame that these kidnappers move around the Kaduna-Abuja Road unchecked. The ransom was collected at a location on the road. After collecting the ransom, the kidnappers moved the girls and their teachers to the same Kaduna–Abuja Road, dropped them around Dutse village and called the parents to come and pick them. A police patrol team surprisingly got there before the parents, picked them and took them to the Toll Gate Police Station.

Now, it’s been eight days since the release of the girls. The story the police told the parents was that they were aware of the location of the kidnappers, but decided not to go after them, to avoid putting the girls at risk. Now that the girls have been released, I thought the police would have gone all out to nab the brigands. It has not happened. Like in previous cases of abductions, it may never happen. Those who inflicted pain on those children and their parents will most likely go unpunished. What a country!

This country is evidently in a mess with abductors. These gangsters have been raging for almost five years now unconstrained by our maladroit security agents. Daily, kidnappers inflict pain on hapless Nigerians. Civil authority is evidently collapsing. 

Last Wednesday, it was the turn of Justice Chioma Nwosu of the Court of Appeal, Benin, to suffer the humiliation. She was kidnapped in Benin and her police orderly (Inspector A. I. Momoh) killed by the gunmen. As at press time, she was still in the dungeons of her abductors.

NAF Jets Killed 35 Terrorists?

I often shudder whenever the Nigerian Air Force reports that its fighter jets have bombed Boko Haram and ISWAP, without ground troops mopping up. They follow up with release of the figures of killed terrorists. Last week, NAF did same, saying that its fighter jets had bombed Bukar Meram on the fringes of Lake Chad, killing 35 terrorists. According to NAF, the bombing “followed intelligence reports that the location was used to provide logistics support for terrorists using fishing activities as a cover.” An attack aircraft was subsequently deployed “to bombard the insurgents in repeated strikes and the air strikes decimated many ISWAP fighters and destroyed structures at the location.”

NAF said before the strikes, over 35 terrorists were observed within the area and “35 of them were killed” during the raid. Haba! How did NAF come about this figure 35 of killed terrorists without ground troops mopping up? With the way NAF regale Nigerians with stories of “repeated strikes” and “successful strikes”, Boko Haram should have been history by now. Honestly, I have very strong feelings that most of these so-called successful air strikes against the terrorists are just make-believe stories. 

Kudos to Justice Onagoruwa

Justice O. A. Onagoruwa of an Ogun State Magistrate Court in Abeokuta deserves commendations for dismissing the criminal charges filed against four of the #RevolutionNow protesters in the state. The protesters, Daniel Abraham, Festus Afofun, Kolawole Seun and Okoro Romeo were arrested on August 5 while participating in the national #RevolutionNow protest convened by detained activist Omoyele Sowore. They were charged with conspiracy, unlawful assembly and conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace. Justice Onagoruwa courageously agreed with the no-case submission made by defence lawyer, Inibehe Effiong and ruled that “the prosecution failed to establish any of the essential elements of the three counts.” 

The defence lawyer remarked: “The ruling is a vindication of our position that the Nigerian government had no basis in law to have arrested, detained or arraigned citizens who called for revolution during the peaceful protest of August 5, 2019. I have consistently said that the case is a disgraceful attempt by the government to silence voices of dissent. This is just the beginning of the end of the shambolic attempt by this regime to illegally deploy the judicial process in a dubious and immoral manner.”

The hero here is Justice Onagoruwa, for refusing to be intimidated by government. Constitutionally, citizens have a right to protest peacefully. The arrest of #RevolutionNow protesters was unlawful.