The House of Representatives on Thursday told the Nigerian Army it can continue with its Operation Positive Identification but said the police and the Nigeria Immigration Service should take a lead role in the exercise.
When this motion was passed Thursday afternoon, there were only 28 lawmakers seated, excluding the deputy speaker, Ahmed Wase, who led plenary on the day. The House has 360 members.
This is coming about a fortnight after the Senate asked the army to suspend the exercise, citing the “hardship” it might cause Nigerians.
The army in September had announced plans for a nationwide operation to demand identity cards from citizens across the country, an exercise that was initially implemented in the Boko Haram-ravaged North-east to “checkmate bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, ethnic militia, cattle rustlers as well as other sundry crimes across the various regions of Nigeria.”
But on Thursday, the chairman of the House Committee on Army, Abdulrazak Sa’ad Namdas, said his committee had seen reasons why the exercise should be implemented.
He said because the army had “credible information that due to bombardments in the northeast”, criminal gangs are moving down to the southern part of the country. Therefore, there is a need to check the movement.
While Mr Namdas presented the report, Ajibola Muraina (PDP–Oyo) raised a point of order that the matter, being a serious one, should be carefully addressed.
He said most of the lawmakers had not read the report distributed a few minutes to the presentation, yet “most of us are saying ‘yes, yes”. He pleaded for a 10-minute window to examine the report. But his request was turned down by the speaker.
Another lawmaker, Bamidele Salam (PDP–Osun), also opposed the report.
“It hampers my constituents’ private lives. When they are being interrogated, no one knows what happens there. The House can adopt the report but as for me I totally disagree with the decision.”
To this, the speaker said the concern should be the entire report but rather than the areas that have to do with human rights violations. However, neither this nor other aspects of the report was debated.
Aside from the resolution that the police and other relevant security agencies should lead the process, the House also resolved that a joint intelligence and monitoring team should be set up by security agencies to “checkmate possible abuse of the exercise.”
The brief of the report shared with journalists also states that the army should disengage from the areas where the operation has been successful and allow the police to take over.
“Serious and urgent attention should be given to the police, in the area of training and retraining so as to equip them to curtail future insurrection or violence that may occur,” the brief further read.
The army was also asked to regularly brief the House committee for proper assessment of the exercise.
Earlier this month, in a lawsuit filed by rights activist Femi Falana, the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the army to suspend the operation. The substantive hearing on the matter was then adjourned to November 18.