The Federal High Court on Tuesday ordered the suspension of the military exercise tagged Operation Positive Identification which was to commence this month across the country.
Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN) Femi Falana, had on October 25 filed a suit against the Nigerian Army, the Chief of Army Staff, and the Attorney-General of the Federation over the exercise.
Mr Falana requested the court to declare the operation scheduled for November 1 to December 23 as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
In his lawsuit against the army, Mr Falana argued that the operation violates his right and that of other Nigerian citizens to liberty, “as encapsulated in Section 35 respectively of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as Amended and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
He also argued that the respondents have no constitutional authority to act in the proposed manner. “By virtue of Section 215 (3) of the Constitution, the Nigeria Police Force ‘has the exclusive power to maintain law and order and secure public safety and public order in the country’ and not the army.”
At the hearing on Tuesday, the Chief of Army Staff represented by Mr Fiyinfoluwa Sobowale sought an adjournment for a suitable date to enable them to properly respond to the issues.
Mr Falana, however, insisted on the closest date possible, arguing that the case was time-bound,
He stressed that the only way the date suggested by Mr Sobowale would be acceptable is if the ministry agreed to ensure that the status quo is maintained.
Delivering his ruling, Mr Rilwan Aikawa the judge of the case said: “in view of the agreement between counsel, I hereby order the 1st and 2nd defendants to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the case.” He also adjourned the matter to November 18 for the substantive hearing of the matter.
The Nigerian military earlier revealed plans to commence a nationwide operation in November. The operation tagged Operation Positive Identification, would involve soldiers asking citizens to provide a means of identification on the spot, from various streets and highways across the country.
Citizens were advised to carry a valid means of identification, especially voter’s card, national identity card, driver’s license or international passport when going out to avoid being seen as a criminal by soldiers.
However, there are reports showing the Nigerian Army disregarding the operation. Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesman for the Nigerian army faults reports with claims that a certain organization by name Bricks company with alleges to the army planned on carrying out the fake operation. He also urged Nigerians to disregard reports on social media about the operation.
Ventures Africa reported that operations have been ongoing in the Boko Haram-ravaged northeastern part of Nigeria. Citizens in the region are reportedly cooperating with military troops to make the exercise successful by carrying valid identity documents.
Although ‘Operation Positive Identification’ was initially billed to commence alongside the anti-crime patrols on October 7, it was held for additional preparation in achieving positive results.
By Faith Ikade.