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Positive identification versus negative perception – Part 2


Nigerian soldiers stand at the ready at the headquarters of the 120th Battalion in Goniri, Yobe State (Photo by AUDU MARTE / AFP)

As an activist who has been in this human rights field for over two decades, I refused to share the impression no matter how so beautifully presented that a time would come when as a citizen, I would be required to have in my possession a means of identification all the time. This is because this line of understanding was not debunked so millions of Nigerians started nursing the fear that their constitutionally guaranteed rights as clearly spelt out in chapter four could be rendered a nullity. This impression gave rise to the human right enforcement procedure instituted by the respected constitutional lawyer Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) that culminated in the injunction halting the enforcement of the positive identification exercise by the military.

A Federal High Court, Lagos division reportedly ordered the Nigerian Army and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, to suspend the ongoing operation positive identification campaign by the military. Justice Rilwan Aikawa directed parties to the suit to maintain the status quo ante pending the determination of the suit filed by Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) on October 25 and marked FHC/L/CS/1939/2019 on October 25.

He is seeking, among others, an order stopping the operation. The COAS, the army and the Attorney-General of the Federation are first to third respondents in the suit. When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, none of the respondents were in court. Falana informed the judge that the respondents had been served the processes and that the proof of service was in the court’s file, which was confirmed. But a principal state counsel from the Ministry of Justice prayed the judge to grant an adjournment to enable the Solicitor-General, Mr. Dayo Apata, to handle the matter personally. He added that the adjournment would enable the respondents have more time to harmonize their positions. Justice Aikawa granted his application when the applicant didn’t oppose him.


“In view of the agreement between counsel, I hereby order the first and second defendants to maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the case,” the judge ruled and adjourned further proceedings till November 18. In the suit, Falana argued that the nationwide operation, which runs from November 1 to December 23, 2019 and by which Nigerian citizens would be required to move about with means of identification, was unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.

He argued that the exercise violates his rights and those of other Nigerian citizens to liberty, “as encapsulated in Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution (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.” The senior lawyer filed along with the suit an order seeking an interim injunction restraining the three respondents from going on with the exercise pending the hearing of the substantive matter. In a supporting affidavit sworn to by a lawyer in his team, Mr. Taiwo Olawanle, the plaintiff recalled that on October 8, 2019, Gen. Buratai disclosed that the operation positive identification, said to be ongoing in the North East Theatre of Boko Haram insurgency, would be extended to the entire nation.

But the POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION IS ONLY BUT A COMPONENT OF THE LARGER EXERCISE OF THE MILITARY. Military exercises are protected by the law because no nation can administer a combat ready force without creating the enabling environment for such internal military operations which must comply with best global practices and must be done to capture the sanctity of the Fundamental Rights provisions of the Nigerian Constitution. What this court’s decision shows is that the large volume of activities organized under the auspices of the civil military relations department of the Army must be further expanded to cover more grounds and to strategically engage constantly with media and civil Rights influencers in Nigeria to keep Nigerians abreast of all the positive changes taking place in the Nigerian Army. It calls for better strategic information dissemination. Richard Templar conveyed this same impression on how to conquer negative perception about proposed events of activities in his latest book titled “The Rules of People.” “We all have a backstory. It explains why we behave as we do. OK, it doesn’t always justify it, but at least it’s a reason for our behavior. Of course, no one else ever knows all the details and complexities of your backstory like you do, but lots of people get the gist.”

“There’ll be a reason why certain things make you feel more anxious, stressed, excited, cynical, depressed, relaxed, angry, confident than other people do. It might be genetic; it might be because of bad past experiences, or according to Freud it might all be down to your parents. Friends might say that you shouldn’t stress so much about this, or be so suspicious about that, or be too laid back, or shout so much. But they don’t understand – if they’d been to the same school as you, or lived through the poverty you have, or had siblings like yours, or worked for your last boss, they’d realize why you behave that way.” “Listen, this is true of everyone. There’s no one on the planet who isn’t shaped by their personal experiences. So when your colleague snaps at you, or your friend lets you down, or your partner forgets your birthday, just remember there’s always a reason. It might be a rubbish reason, but there’s a reason.” “And I’m telling you this because if you can understand the reason, it makes it easier to deal with other people’s negative behavior. Even if you can’t change the way they act, you’ll find it slightly easier to take if you get the reasons behind it. And often simply because you’re prepared to understand, they can let go of being defensive and decide to change their behavior.” Writing in his book “Soldiers of fortune: Nigerian politics from Buhari to Babangida”, Max Siollun offered some reasons for the growing cynicisms about internal military operations, as it were, especially since the inception of constitutional democracy. But he got it all screwed up because under the current dispensation the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai has taken steps to carry Nigerians along by way of up to date informations on internal military operations and as I write I have in my possession over a dozen top quality books on the military and particularly about the subordination of the military to the provisions of the constitution and the Laws. He wrote that: “Nigeria is a country of great diversity and contradiction…it has world class wealth, yet is full of poor people…yet through all the contradiction, diversity and linguistic confusion, there has been one constant in Nigerian life: military interference in politics.” “In 2010 Nigeria celebrated 50 years as an independent nation. As it passed this milestone there is renewed interest in its history. Although modern Nigeria cannot be understood without reference to its era of military rule, there is little objective literature on the fifteen years of military rule (1984-1999) that preceded the current civilian government. The small body of literature on the era of military rule consists largely of hagiographic biographies by, or about, some of the key personalities of the era.” I conclude by calling for further and better strategic and constructive engagement with the military to enhance quality crises communications in times like these.

Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) And Blogs.


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