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Nigerian Army and Operation Positive Identification



The Nigerian Army after initially vacillating about admitting an earlier report that it is planning to conduct a nationwide operation code named: 'Operation Positive Identification' has now come out to accept the truthfulness of the report.

Clarifying the position of the Nigerian Army,  the chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai confirmed that the force indeed has perfected plans to conduct the said operation which is intended to fish out the remnants of the insurgents who are currently on the run after they were flushed out of their various hideouts in the north-east by the military.

The Army Chief went further to state that the operation has the backing of the president and other relevant authorities. It was to commence on the 1st of November, 2019.

During the duration of the operation, citizens are required to carry with them any of means of identification- national Identity Card, voter's Card and the likes.

But in a swift reaction right from day the news first broke, Nigerians have been expressing their thoughts and views concerning the operation and its modus operandi.

While some are in support, others have expressed their misgiving and apprehension over the planned operation.

Among others, talks of possible victimization of the people was rife. And there was also the fear that free movement of the people, goods, and services might be encroached upon.

In the calculation of others, the operation is also capable of causing panic among the populace. Indeed, all the expressed angles above are not completely misplaced.

More than that, it only goes to show a general lack of faith and preparedness to jointly and urgently confront some of the challenges facing us as a people.

Having said that, one cannot also forget that the vast majority of Nigerians especially at the grassroots still don't have any means of identification thereby exposing the inadequacies of the various national identification projects.

We can, therefore, conclude that many who falls into this category may end up becoming the worst hit.

*Service Chiefs at a security briefing of the President recently 


Consequentially also, a suit challenging the constitutionality of the planned operation was filed at a federal high court in Lagos by the civil rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Femi Falana.

He argued that the Army has practically usurped the constitutional role of the Nigerian Police and other agency like the Nigerian Immigration Service.

He, therefore, pray that the court should declare the planned operation as unconstitutional, illegal, null, and void.

The National Assembly has also stepped in and called on the Nigerian Army to suspend the operation pending the outcome of an inquiry into the matter by its security committee.

As such, the operation could not kick off on Friday, November 1st, 2019 as earlier scheduled.

While commenting on the development,  the chairman of the committee expressed the view that such operation though strategic to winning the ongoing war against insecurity cannot be hastily carried out without the proper sensitization of Nigerians. This, no doubt, is well said.

However,  the implication of all these is that the fleeing Boko Haram elements will continue to roam about free and possible mutating into other criminal activities and terrorizing the our communities like has been widely reported.  

But instead of all these hues and cries about the Army's intentions with a focus only on the negatives, I'd rather, more than ever, that we begin to appreciate the contributions and the elasticity of the Nigerian Army in the nation's fight against both the insurgency and other security challenges facing the country in the past and in recent time.

In the first instance, while its statutory role is to combat both external aggression against the country and nip in the bud internal insurrection, it has on several occasions been called upon to assist the Police saddled with the task of social policing when they appeared overwhelmed in the discharge of that important responsibility.

President Muhammadu Buhari 

This has been attributed to the decades of poor funding of the Nigerian Police starting from the military era and has persisted into the current democratic dispensation.

The resultant effect of poor funding of the police is now its visibly lack of necessary capacities of ethical recruiting process, up-to-date training and retraining, high-morale arising from prioritize welfare of its rank and file, and firepower to effectively carry out its constitutional assignments.

Overtime, it has become a normal sight to see combat-ready military personnel in the company of men of the Nigeria police on the streets of our towns and cities about which people rarely complain.

As a result of such collaborations, it must be remember that significant successes have been recorded in the fight against crime and criminality in the country.

One can easily recall that since the Buhari administration came to power in 2015, the military has actually operationalized many counter-insecurity measures in different parts of the country- operation crocodile smile, operation python dance are good examples, while at the same time fighting insurgents in the north-east.

There is no single one of them, however, that has gone without one form of bad press or the other if I may put it that way.

They've not also been free of suspicion especially when operationalized in the south-south and south-east regions of the country being the strong hold of the opposition.

When it was launched in the southeast, for instance, at the height of the separatists movement's activities, it was seen as an invasion of that region by a government desperate to silence the Biafran agitators.

And I ask, is there anything wrong in that? After all, there is a popular saying among the Yoruba that it is responsibility of the leaders to do everything possible to prevent a dismemberment of the community or country under his watch.

That's exactly what the President has done and he must be commended for it and not castigated.

In general, counter-insecurity measures of the military have been seen as attempts by the government to intimidate the opposition and put it on the retreat.

Such is the nature of the opposition politics in Nigeria that it fails at every point in time to appreciate the overriding national interest in the actions of the government.
It's especially worse with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Seeing the successes similar operations have accomplished in the past, I'm tempted to ask, what is different about the proposed operation positive identification of the Army compared to the roles it has played overtime within the security architecture of the country?

If it doesn't constitute an usurpation of the constitutional role of the police in the past, why does it now constitute such?

Does it not amount to a mischief, display of wilful ignorance, and irresponsible opposition politics for anybody or groups to assume or imagine that the Army has taken over the statutory role of the police?

I want to agree with the senate though that the Army would need to sensitize the people over a period of time before deploying its officers and men to execute the operation.

The other thing is the widespread believe that the Army can carry out military operation covering the entire country without counting the cost of the logistics involve.

War or counter-insurgency or insecurity operations are not just about personnel and hardware but money importantly.

The best the Army can do in the circumstances it has found itself now is to delimit the areas to be covered which I think they must have done based on intelligence reports that are at their disposal.

Otherwise, it would be foolhardy for any military no matter its level of capability to conduct a nationwide operation in a country as wide as Nigeria.

Again, the downside to the proposed operation for me is that it's unlikely the terrorists who are on the run would come anywhere near the Army roadblocks if such approach is adopted not to talk of getting them arrested. And so the purpose is defeated right from the start.

Continuing with the old pattern, I would rather the operation positive identification is, however, this time around non-intrusive, staggered, and collaborative involving the police, immigration, and other relevant security agencies for optimally effective results. 

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