Concerned about the negative effects on Nigerians, the House of Representatives has rejected the planned nationwide implementation of Operation Positive Identification by the Nigerian Army saying it would amount to trampling on the rights of Nigerians.
To this end, it mandated its Committee on Army to interface with Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, to develop a pro-people strategy in combating crime.
The decision was contained in a motion of urgent national importance moved by the Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, who described the planned operation scheduled to commence on November 1, 2019, as a recipe to possible militarilisation of Nigeria.
In his lead debate, Elumelu posited that such plan by the army would lead to the infringement on fundamental rights of Nigerians, as enshrined in the 1999 constitution (as amended).
He stressed that the plan, if followed through, would downgrade innocent Nigerians to suspects and conquered people in their own country; strip them of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement and instill fear, anxiety and panic in the entire polity.
The lawmaker who posited that the constitutional duties of the Nigerian Army is defending the territorial integrity of the country, urged it to allow the police and other relevant agencies such as Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) to handle regulatory issues relating to internal security.
He also noted that the nationwide operation would also amount to an indirect imposition of a state of emergency across the country by the Army adding that such operations that involves direct contact and regulation of civilians is likely to result in abuses and serious safety issues, especially at this time the nation is battling with the scourge of victimisation and extrajudicial killings.
Elumelu further pointed out that the operation would expose many Nigerians, particularly those living in the rural areas to harassment as they do not have proper means of identification just as there has not been enough public sensitisation for the operation.
While noting the security challenges the nation is faced with, and the efforts by security agencies to safeguard lives of citizens, Elumelu however, insisted that the planned implementation of OPI across the nation would only worsen the situation in the country.
Speaking on the motion, the deputy minority leader, Toby Okechukwu who insisted that identification of citizens is not the duty of the Nigerian Army, noted that the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC), as well as other security agencies are already saddled with such responsibility.
Similarly, Hon. Jaha Ahmadu Usman decried the lack of awareness of the planned operation and noted the difficulty Nigerians encounter in obtaining identification card officially. He also maintained that it would amount to the violation of rights of Nigerians.
In adopting the motion, the House also urged the Army to develop pro-people strategies in combating the country’s security challenges instead of measures that would further victimise citizens.
It equally called on President Muhammadu Buhari to review the situation and stop the Army from commencing the planned operation.