A yet-to-be identified lady was publicly harassed by Nigerian military officers for wearing camouflage.
A picture of the incident, which has been trending on the Internet, showed the victim being forced to pull down her trousers as her underwear jutted out.
A military man, who was supervising the unsavoury show, bent over the victim, who looked terrified and appeared to be begging another officer whose face was not revealed by the shot.
Although the identity of the supervising military officer was also shielded by his cap, the face of the lady at the centre of the drama was visible.
PUNCH Metro could not establish the time, place and circumstances surrounding the incident. But available information showed the victim was harrassed somewhere in the northern part of the country for putting on army camouflage.
A large number of people, who reacted to the photo on different social media platforms condemned the incident, saying the victim was dehumanised.
On Nairaland, a poster with the alias, Superpark, said it was wrong for anyone to take the law into his own hands no matter the offence.
While citing sections 108, 109 and 110 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act which prescribed punishment for use of a military uniform for the purpose of impersonation, the poster said the lady was not guilty of any crime.
“She is not impersonating anybody with the clothes; when did army men start to wear tight trousers, and who gave the army the right to strip civilians?” he wrote.
Another poster, Mikool007, said the military were fond of intimidating civilians.
“It is your right to wear anything you want, but if you impersonate someone, e.g. a military officer, you will be prosecuted accordingly (not humiliated publicly) and is the army too dumb to differentiate their uniform from designer clothes? These guys are too busy intimidating us; we’ve forgotten they are here to serve us. I’m not in the army, but I know for sure that the girl is not wearing the Nigerian military uniform,” he said.
Another user, Link20k, said if the victim committed a crime, she was supposed to be taken in for questioning and not humiliated in the public.
He said, “If she has in any way breached the law, she should have been taken in for questioning or kept behind bars and the necessary punishment given to her, not behaving like you are in the animal kingdom where anything goes and stripping her. In a sane climate or where humans reside, the army officers should be the one behind bars now.”
Another user, Sweatlana, said, “In a sane country, these men would be arrested, charged, convicted and jailed! The Nigerian Army makes it very easy for civilians to hate them. Even when they die in battles, I don’t pity them! Is there any law that says civilians can’t wear camouflage? If yes, is the prescribed punishment stripping the suspect?
“If no, then who the hell do they think they are to tell people what to wear? It is written law that a person cannot be punished for a crime not known to law and punishment therein prescribed.
“What are we if we do not have laws? Bloody babarians! The western world is right when it thinks of us Africans as such. We have no atom of civility.”
On Facebook, one Isaac Okwu said camouflage was sold in some other countries.
“Nigerians are primitive and crude. In Dubai, camouflage is sold in all their boutiques and anyone is free to buy. I even bought it, which I wore down to Nigeria the last time I travelled. People wear it everywhere in other countries and their soldiers even like it; they feel honoured that the people are identifying with them,” he said.
However, there were other people who felt the victim should be blamed for the harassment.
One Ezinne Chibuzo said the military had warned against wearing of military camouflage.
She said, “Please, let’s stop looking for trouble. These people have warned us not to wear their uniforms. If we refuse to listen, then we should be ready to take anything we get from them.”
Another responder, lectuerdabo, said the constitution of the country disagreed with the idea of wearing military camouflage.
He said, “Section 251 of the Constitution states; any person who, not being a person serving in any of the armed or police forces of Nigeria, wears the uniform of any of these forces, or any dress having the appearance or bearing any of the regimental or other distinctive marks of any such uniform, in such manner or in such circumstances as to be likely to bring contempt on that uniform, or employs any other person so to wear such uniform or dress, is guilty of a simple offence, and is liable to imprisonment for three months or to a fine of N40.”
One Zachariah Apamshan said, “Countries facing guerrilla or asymmetrical warfare, like Nigeria, where controlled military wares like camouflages are used by non-state forces to challenge the state, the state do not tolerate such indiscriminate use of military items. Nigeria is in a state of difficult warfare where the enemy knows you as a soldier while you don’t know the enemy. Come on people! We’ve got to support our military. You can join the military if interested in the uniform or go to other countries where you can be allowed to wear the uniform freely. Remember, camouflage remains a banned item in Nigeria. Be warned!”
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, did not pick his calls and had yet to respond to a text message sent to his telephone line as of press time.