The Nigerian military has revealed plans to commence a nationwide operation in November which will see it demand identity cards from citizens across the country.
Tagged Operation Positive Identification, the exercise would involve soldiers asking citizens to provide a means of identification on the spot, from various streets and highways.
Citizens have been 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.
The exercise aims to checkmate bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, ethnic militants, cattle rustlers as well as other sundry crimes across the various regions of Nigeria. It is also a means of differentiating between criminals and honest Nigerians.
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 with them 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.
Already, some firms have started issuing advisories to their staff members ahead of the planned military operation.
The operation is however seen as unconstitutional to ask citizens to carry ID cards or be treated as suspects, thereby subjecting the whole country to fear. Also, it seems like means to victimize, intimidate and extort Nigerians as most military men are known to misuse their authority on civilians.
Human rights activist and National Chairman of People’s Alternative Front, Femi Falana (SAN) has called on the military to restrain from forcing Nigerians into carrying identification cards when exercising their rights to freedom of movement, saying the action is illegal and constitutes a gross infringement on the dignity of the citizens.
Moreover, over half of Nigerians do not have any valid means of identification so there is nothing to present at checkpoints. This is going to be a major challenge in the operations, as bodies responsible for giving out identification cards are not carrying out their responsibilities.
Nigeria has long faced challenges in compiling a unified database of its citizens. In 2007, a commission was created to register and issue ID cards to all citizens above 16. But over a decade later, only a few million people have enrolled and even fewer people had been issued the plastic identity cards.
Millions of citizens do not have voting credentials, driver’s license or international passport, and with a majority of Nigerians being unemployed, there are little work-issued ID cards.
Rather than sticking to crude and dictatorial tactics, military security and law enforcement agencies should all work together to evolve a modern policing technique.
The government should also focus on the various organizations such as the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) that are responsible for issuing identity cards, by providing them with enough resources to carry out their operations.
In addition, the registration and collection process of these cards at the various centres should be made easy and accessible to all citizens.
Democratic strategies for securing the nation should be put in place, rather than threatening citizens to carry ID cards or face harsh consequences.
By Faith Ikade.