A Federal High Court in Lagos has said the Army lacks the power to implement “Operation Positive Identification”.
Ruling on the case, Justice Rilwan Aikawa stated the Army has no constitutional power to subject civilians to such positive identification process, adding the fundamental rights of Nigerians to liberty and freedom of movement would be breached by the planned positive identification.
Justice Aikawa, in a ruling on Friday, sustained a suit filed by Femi Falana (SAN) over the planned implementation of the “Operation Positive Identification’ by the Nigerian Army.
The activist lawyer had filed the Fundamental Rights Enforcement suit on October 25, 2019 against the planned exercise by the army scheduled to hold from 1 November to 23 December 2019.
The respondents in the suit are: the Nigerian Army, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malani (SAN).
Aikawa also insisted that Falana has the locus standi to have instituted the suit as he dismissed the objections of the Attorney General of the Federation and the Nigerian Army to the applicant’s suit.
Falana, in his suit, emphasised it is illegal and unconstitutional for the court to uphold an act that would require Nigerians to move around with a valid means of identification, such as the National Identification Card, Voters Registration Card, Drivers’ Licence and passports or other valid official identification, pleaded the court to dismiss the idea behind the exercise.
He argued it is unconstitutional for the military to mount checkpoints on highways anywhere in the country as he cited several authorities.
The human rights lawyer maintained that it is the work of the police to conduct identification process on civilians.
Falana argued the respondents have not given valid reasons why soldiers must take over the duties of the police.
But the three respondents to the suit filed a preliminary objection challenging the suit.
The Nigerian military had launched in October 2019 “Operation Positive Identification” to demand identity cards from citizens across the country stating that the operation would combat the threats of criminal insurgency and terrorism, armed banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen-farmers clashes, cultism, and communal crises across the country.
The idea attracted criticisms and calls to drop it by the Nigerian Army.
However, in November the House of Representatives gave the Nigerian army the approval to carry out Operation Positive Identification (OPI) in conjunction with other relevant security agencies, after it had initially kicked against the operation.
The House, in its initial criticism of OPI, said it would strip Nigerians of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement.