The Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed May 15 to give its verdict on a suit instituted by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, over planned implementation of the “Operation Positive Identification’ by the Nigerian Army.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa fixed the date after listening to arguments from the lawyers representing all the parties in the suit.
Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had filed the Fundamental Rights Enforcement suit on October 25, 2019, against the planned exercise by the army scheduled to hold from November 1 to December 23.
Alongside the Nigerian Army, Mr Falana listed the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai; and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, as the respondents to the suit.
The senior lawyer in his suit asked the court to stop the implementation of the exercise, arguing that the operation – which would entail 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 – is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
Citing several authorities, Mr Falana submitted that armed troops are not allowed by law to mount checkpoints on highways in the country. He says this is a job for the police and the respondents have not shown why the soldiers must take over the duties of the police.
He also submitted that the Appeal Courts have ruled severally that the army has no business in civil actions neither are they allowed to get involved in elections.
He argued that the relief sought pertains to his right to life, liberty, and freedom of movement as there was a likelihood that the soldiers could shoot to death any individual who failed to produce any means of identification on demand.
While asking the court to grant his fundamental rights application, Falana insisted that his move was completely anchored on Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution.
But the three respondents to the suit filed a preliminary objection challenging the suit.
In her arguments on the preliminary objection today, Counsel to the Nigerian Army and the Chief of Army Staff, Mrs Olayemi Badewole asked the court to dismiss the suit for lack of merit.
She argued that Mr Falana’s complaints are all based on Newspaper publications which are speculative. She further stressed that the reliefs sought are spent as the time-lapse for the nationwide operation had since elapsed and the case had become academic. She urged the court to dismiss the suit for lack of merit.
Counsel to the AGF, Mr Terhember Agbe, on his part, asked the court to take judicial notice of the insurgency in the country and the call for the sack of the Service Chiefs.
He stressed that operation positive identification had been going on in the North East and was a means by the army to fish out criminals and stop the breach of peace.
He claimed that the move to extend the exercise to other parts of the country was not aimed at shooting Nigerians or infringing on the fundamental human rights as guaranteed in the nation’s constitution.
Agbe also submitted that no evidence had been placed before the court to show that Operation Positive Identification has caused the death of any Nigerian.
He, therefore, urged the court not to give in to Mr Falana’s fear, a fear which he says is not founded in law and is not in the public interest.
After listening to all the arguments, the court fixed May 15 for its verdict.