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Al- Qaeda Scare: Nigerian Army’s ‘Operation Positive Identification’ as the antidote

By Kennedy Nwaboshi

The recent scare of the infiltration of Nigeria by elements of the terror network Al-Qaeda calls for concern from critical stakeholders in Nigeria. I am convinced that this is indeed not the time to play to the gallery in the task of preserving the territorial integrity of the country.

I recall some months ago when the Nigerian Army introduced Operation Positive Identification to combat the threats of criminal insurgency, terrorism, armed banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen-farmers clashes, cultism, and communal crises in the country, some mischief makers questioned the legality of such operations without looking at it overarching benefit to the country.

In some quarters eyebrows were raised questioning the rationale for such exercise and ignoring the explanations put forward by the Nigerian Army.

In a nutshell, Operation Positive Identification is a strategy introduced by the Nigerian Army to combat crimes and threats from within and outside the country to checkmate the activities of bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, ethnic militia, cattle rustlers, and others.

I have long stated in numerous forums that the Nigerian Army has not just been proactive, but also integrated its operations to include internal security operations that the civil police ought to be in charge of. This is a dynamic strategy that calls for commendation from stakeholders that are desirous of the entrenchment of peace and sustainable development in Nigeria.

As we all know, the role of the Nigerian Army is explicitly stated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. However, again it must be noted that there are also provisions for the Nigerian Military to be called upon if the civil police is overwhelmed. This is the reality before us, and we must commend the Nigerian Army for its efforts in internal security operations in the country so far.

The crux of this piece is hinged in the fact that there is an urgent need for the civil police as well as the secret police to embark on the positive identification of citizens and implore all possible means to ensure that no terror component extends into the Southern parts of the country to establish terror cells. This is necessary in light of the recent revelations that some terrorist organizations are planning to establish cells across the country up south in the latest Intel by the United States of America.

I have issues with the way and manner the United States of America decided to share such Intel in the public domain rather than with security agencies in Nigeria. As an aside, I could not help but question the motive behind the stands of the United States of America, a country that ought to know better about counter-insurgency operations and the sharing of Intel amongst countries. Nevertheless, it becomes imperative for the Nigerian Military as well as the Nigerian police and other security agencies to continue to do all within its powers to ensure that Nigeria remains safe for all and that the activities of terror and militant organizations are not propagated in any part of the country.

I stand to be corrected, as stated earlier; one of such ways this could be achieved is through the Operation Positive Identification earlier introduced by the Nigerian Army across the country. The Nigerian Police must see that no terrorist cell is established in any part of the country. The reason being that the Nigerian Army has set the standard in an operation that is strictly internal security.

It must also be stated that the Military should not be responsible for chasing Boko Haram elements and ensuring that they don’t infiltrate our population. That is why we have the civil police as well as the secret police. This is what is applicable in other climes. However, unfortunately, in Nigeria, the Military is seen as the super force with magical powers to be everywhere at the same time.

I must state that if we continue in this manner, then defeating terrorism and other forms of criminalities in Nigeria would be a mirage because the ranks of these terror organizations would continue to grow. They would operate freely in the country, and Nigeria would be doomed. The Nigerian police must rise to the occasion in this critical point of our existence. They must ensure a system in place that would easily give out strangers in our midst.

They must deploy modern-day crime prevention tools that would trace criminal elements in their tracks and nip their activities in the bud before it escalates. That is how to be proactive, and that is why it must remain the collective duty of the civil police as well as the secret police to ensure that Nigeria is free from radicals that bent on inflicting terror on the people.

This inadvertently brings me to the leadership strides of the Chief of Army Staff in the operations of the Nigerian Army. As I mentioned earlier, the civil police, as well as the secret police, must take a cue from the various operations of the Nigerian Army and model theirs in such a way that would bring about the required results in internal security operations.

Operation Positive Identification remains valuable and must be built upon by the civil police and the secret police. The Nigerian Army has indeed set the foundation for its smooth takeoff. In my opinion, it would be against the interest of the country if this initiative is not expanded and utilized, especially with the recent threats posed by the Al-Qaida terrorist organizations in Nigeria.

As a people, we must also realize that we all have a role to play in addressing the Al-Qaeda scare in Nigeria. We must extend that total cooperation to the security agencies by providing information as at when necessary whenever we notice strange faces and movements in our localities. We should also form the habit of putting in place mechanisms that would ensure seamless communication with the security agencies. If this is done, it will go a long way in addressing the security issues in the country.

It is also my considered opinion that our actions are also crucial to the success of whatever security operation that would be introduced either by the police or the Military. We must ensure that wherever we are going, we must carry at least a necessary means of identification. That is essentially what the Operation Positive Identification is about before mischief-makers twisted the narrative.

I am convinced that with the right attitude, we can defeat terrorism and other acts of criminalities in Nigeria. All that is needed is the will, and once there is a will, there would be a way. There must also be a synergy between the various arms of the Armed Forces, as well as with the various paramilitary organizations.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, as well as the Nigerian Immigration Service, must be partners in this venture. They must come to terms that their operations are as critical as those of the Army, the civil police and the secret police when one uses the principle of structural functionalism is a framework that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability.

The mistakes of the past must not be repeated. We all witnessed the consequences of our lackadaisical approach to dealing with the issues as they came up till Boko Haram and its affiliates almost grounded Nigeria. Operation Positive Identification is indeed a time tested strategy and must be put into action by all the security agencies in Nigeria without exception, and not until then; it is not yet Uhuru.

Nwaboshi is a public affairs analyst and wrote from Abuja.

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