Ever since President Buhari won his second term, Nigerians across the country have worried that the President and his cabinet has continued to use tactics straight from the dictatorial regimes of our past as a way to get results in the present. We saw this the Nigerian Customs decision to close the Nigerian Southern borders to land trade from neighboring countries as their response to curbing smuggling, rather than improving security at the border and collaborating with the countries with which we share borders to improve exchange of information to preempt attempts at smuggling. This compounded with the government’s inability to provide adequate security for its citizens and its targeted harassment of vocal critics of the administration is enough to worry.
However, the government’s new directive has crossed from incompetence to targeted discrimination. While the government has refused to officially announce or acknowledge the open rumours, it has also not denied that there are plans to execute a nationwide operation that will see the streets flooded by military personnel, who will perform random inspections on average Nigerians to ensure they have ‘positive’ identification. The exercise, slated to begin on the 7th of October is allegedly the government’s response to nationwide insecurity and we suspect, a way to force Nigerians to apply for the National Identity Number (NIN).
According to reports, the Nigerian Military has already begun to implement this exercise in insecurity ridden regions like Borno and Yobe state and have allegedly measured significant co-operation from citizens. The military alleges that the exercise has helped them cull terrorists from the larger peaceful population.
Nigerians, however are right to worry that this exercise could become a legitimate excuse to harass and discriminate against peaceful Nigerians. The Nigerian government so far has been unable to successful curtail the illegal activities of the Nigerian police as a whole or even the actions of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) a sub-division under the Nigerian army. There is of course, the scourge of ‘Dancing Python’, the Nigerian military’s efforts to suppress the uprising of Biafra secessionists.
There is also the fact that 100 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty, and the process of gaining identification from the Nigerian government has been so corrupted that no part of the process is really free. How does the Nigerian military intend to compensate for these people. Is the government going to arrest them and throw them in jail? Is the Nigerian government going to deport them. Are there any checks or balances for people who refuse to participate in the exercise?