It is no longer news that the Nigerian military has planned a nationwide operation tagged ‘Operation Positive Identification’ to demand identity cards from citizens across the country. The effect is that from the 1st of November to 23rd of December 2019, Nigerians shall witness large numbers of uniformed Army Personnel on the streets and highways checking ID Cards, “proper dressing”, etc.
The proposed invasion of our street by military personal is quite laughable as it is an aberration in a democracy. First, the primary task of the army is to protect the territorial integrity of the country. If the members of the armed forces are not at battlefields, they should be seen at the barracks. But, coming to the street in large numbers to check citizen’s valid identification is totally out of place.
Legally, I think is even not in line with the spirit of our law for military personnel to request from citizens their identity cards. It would amount a fundamental breach of the right to freedom of movement guaranteed under Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution. Methinks the invasion alone is a serious threat to the enjoyment of the right to movement and personal liberty. The Constitution provides, in part, under Section 41(1) that “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move FREELY throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof…” (Emphasis supplied). To move freely is to move without unjustifiable hindrance; to move without imminent fear of Junta Boys’ incursion.
If a citizen fails to provide an ID card, what happens? Oh! You guessed right. Arrest, torture and inhumane treatment. Or what do you expect from a military man? What was he trained for? An average Nigerian with no ID card would gladly stay indoor throughout this period. That shows the length at which the Operation would deprive many Nigerians their right to freedom of movement. To be clear, possessing a “valid ID card” is not a precondition to exercise the right to freedom of movement under our law.
There is no legal basis for the military incursion of the street, requesting for ID cards and checking proper dressing. Failure to provide one or dress properly cannot lead to any offence in Nigeria. There is no legal obligation on the citizens to go about with ID cards when they are inside their country. To be clear, it is neither a wrong or crime in Nigeria to move without ID card or dress improperly. At least, there can be no crime without law – as provided under Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution. See also the popular case of Aoko v. Fagbemi (1963) 1 All NLR 80 where it was held that one can only be tried of an offence contained in a written law and the punishment prescribed.
Funny enough, this same Nigerian military who wants to occupy the street to ‘deal’ with citizens has found it so hard a task to defeat Boko-Haram for years. Let the military personnel go back to Sambisa forest, defeat Boko-Haram, before contemplating an operation aimed at civilians. The military really has no business in enforcing laws and orders. That is for the police and other security agencies. Not the military.
With the level of illiteracy and joblessness in the land, how many Nigerian have ID cards? With the level of poverty, how many Nigerian is even concerned about possessing an ID card? A Nigerian that is yet to sort his daily bread? A plastic ID card to prove my citizenship? What kind of country is this?
Again, the Operation is aimed at checkmating “responsible dressing”. I ask: when did the government, through the military, turn the watchdog of morality? What the citizens put on is not the concern of the government. Not even a government that has failed to provide shelter and adequate welfare for the people. So, what exactly is responsible or proper dressing? This is subjective. Even among military personnel, the notion of “proper dressing” would raise controversies due to its subjectivity.
Here is the Nigerian Army beating the drum of war!
President Buhari, the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces must break his deafening silence on this matter. You will observe that the Federal Government has kept quiet on this matter ever since the news broke. It never affirm nor deny it. Unless the contrary is proven, that raises the presumption that the FG is pitching tent with the military. Buhari must halt this precarious path to anarchy.
The barrack cannot be allowed to rule the street in a supposed democracy. If Buhari allows this to happen, it shows a vivid subversion of our democracy.