There are strong indications that the Nigerian Army will not suspend Operation Positive Identification which began nationwide on Friday despite criticisms from the National Assembly and social-political groups including Afenifere and Pan Niger Delta Forum.
This came just as the Federal High Court in Lagos fixed Tuesday for the hearing of the suit filed by human rights activist, Femi Falana, challenging the legality of OPI which requires citizens across the country to carry identity cards.
An authoritative military source told the Punch on Friday that the army had declared its position at the National Assembly and “sorted out all the controversies”.
He said, “Operation Positive Identification has started and there is no going back. The evaluation we made was that it would be conducted in the North-West and North-Central, not necessarily in the South. It was a very successful operation in the North-East as we have maintained. There is no label on Boko Haram terrorists other than intelligence and this means of identifying people.
“The operation is premised on the fact that we were able to successfully uncover several Boko Haram hideouts and ammunition. You can imagine what kind of damage this would have done to the populace if that operation was not conducted to filter the population. So, the operation has started and there is no going back.”
Another top military source said, “Nigerians have been told that there are foreigners sneaking into the country as herders to attack innocent communities and the military has been called upon to fish out these foreign fighters.
“Unfortunately, there are outcries that the military want to heat the polity and ask people for identification. This is a miscarriage of what the military did in the North-East. The operation in the North-East is going to be replicated in the North-West and North-Central, where we have issues of banditry and herdsmen’s assaults due to infiltrations.”
Falana’s suit assigned to a judge
Meanwhile, Falana’s suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos challenging the OPI has been assigned to a judge, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
One of our correspondents learnt that the case was assigned to Justice Rilwan Aikawa on Friday.
It was also learnt that although the respondents to the case had yet to file their replies to the suit, the court has fixed November 5 for hearing.
Falana on October 25 sued the army, the Chief of Army Staff and the Attorney General of the Federation, praying for an order stopping the planned OPI by the army.
Filed along with his suit marked FHC/L/CS/1939/2019, was an application seeking an interim injunction restraining the three defendants from going on with the plan pending the hearing of the substantive suit.
According to Falana, the planned nationwide operation scheduled for November 1 to December 23 when Nigerians will be required to move about with means of identification is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
He contended that going by Section 217(1) of the Constitution; the President could only deploy the armed forces for the suppression of insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore law and order.
Army launches special operations in states
Meanwhile, the army launched operations in some states as the military stepped up efforts to tackle insecurity across the country.
In Taraba State, the army on Friday began Operation Ayem Akpatuma II to curb criminal activities in the state. In Abia State, the army began Atilogwu Udo in Umuahia.
Burutai said the exercise was targeted at “mitigating the threat by criminals in the South-East”.
Meanwhile, there was no sign of any military operation in some states including Katsina on Friday.
NIS threatens to sanction illegal migrants
The Nigeria Immigration Service said it had so far registered over 27,046 immigrants, adding that the ongoing exercise was expected to register more aliens.
Spokesman for the service, Sunday James, said those who failed to register after the amnesty period would be sanctioned.
It was learnt that foreigners who did not register would be deported.
Army inaugurates court to prosecute erring personnel
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army on Friday inaugurated a special Court Marshal to prosecute erring personnel engaged in the counter-insurgency operation in the North-East.
The Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, who spoke during the inauguration, said that the court would enable the Armed Forces to deal with matters pertaining to discipline, efficiency and morale of the military.
He said, “The safety and well-being of Nigerians depend considerably on the willingness and readiness of a force of men and women to defend against threats to national security.
Adeniyi lamented indiscriminate cases of negligence and cowardice among soldiers in the ongoing campaign against insurgency in the northeast. Punch