A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the Nigerian Army to suspend the military exercise tagged Operation Positive Identification which the Army had planned to begin this month across the country.
Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer, had on October 25, filed a suit against the Nigerian Army, the Chief of Army Staff, and the Attorney-General of the Federation over the exercise.
In the suit, Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, asked the court to declare the operation scheduled for November 1 to December 23 as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
At the hearing of the matter on Tuesday, there was no legal representation for the Nigerian Army and the Chief of Army Staff who were listed as 1st and 2nd respondents in the matter. However, Falana informed the court that they were duly served and that he had spoken with their counsel on a probable date to commence substantial hearing of the matter.
Fiyinfoluwa Sobowale from the Ministry of Justice represented the Attorney-General.
Seeking an adjournment, Sobowale said they would be applying for a suitable date to enable them properly respond to the issues.
But Falana insisted on the closest date possible, arguing that the case was time-bound and there would be no point in the case if the parties continued with their actions while the matter is yet to be heard in court.
He explained that the only way the date suggested by Sobowale would be acceptable is if the ministry agreed to ensure that the status quo is maintained.
The judge, Rilwan Aikawa, agreed with Falana and said that due to the nature of the case, a delay would reduce the case to a mere academic exercise.
Delivering his ruling, Aikawa said, “in view of the agreement between counsel, I hereby order the 1st and 2nd defendants to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the case.”
He also adjourned the matter to November 18 for the substantive hearing of the matter.
The Nigerian army had begun Operation Positive Identification in the north-east last September to check fleeing Boko Haram and ISWAP members in the region.
The military later announced it would extend the exercise nationwide, prompting Falana to approach the court.