The Harm of Camera Phone in War

Camera phone will go down as one of the best inventions of man in recent times. We caught the bug a bit late due to our placement at the ‘last floor’ of the globe. Nonetheless, seeing it work first-hand only heightened the thrill. From being excited over the ability to capture great moments on our phones, we stepped up to talking mega pixels and picture quality.

As we got used to these gadgets and their dosage of adrenaline, we have come to appreciate their usefulness much better. A countless number of crimes have been caught on camera phones and so have numerous acts or statements that would have been conveniently denied by those in a position to do so.
On a scale of pros and cons, camera phone has made the world a better place. But as a Nigerian who loves his country from the heart, I believe the camera phone could well turn out to be the worst thing to have ever crossed into this country. As things stand, it has a great tendency to plunge us into situations we would ultimately regret not nipping it in the bud. As ridiculous as it sounds, this same gadget could be the reason there is no longer us as an entity; especially if our soldiers still capture their exploits on them and allow the images or videos sneak into other hands.
It was with great dismay that I viewed the sad images of a badly beaten Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the Shiite sect leader, when he was arrested by the military. He was bleeding badly from both sides of the face, leaving the white vest underneath his Shiite ceremonial attire soaked while his legs were held up by soldiers. While it was hard to tell whether or not his eye was broken, it was very obvious he had been severely tortured. This came at a time Shiites were starting to stage protests in other places outside Zaria and had had three of their members killed in an ensuing shootout with the police after its refusal to call off  one. There couldn’t be a more sensitive time – a time when northerners and indeed Nigerians at large are worried about the probability of the Shiite situation escalating into another Boko Haram war that still hasn’t been won.
The Shiites have a far superior followership scattered across the north and with an absolutely legitimate outlook very much unlike the Boko Haram. El-Zakzaky has always been rumoured to receive financial backing from the Iranians and a lot of Shiite bodies worldwide. I doubt if there would still be a northern Nigeria if we had a war with the Shiites to compound the ongoing one against Boko Haram.
I am fully aware of the challenges the military has had to face in their effort to protect our territorial integrity over the years, and I understand they have witnessed some of the most unpleasant times. But they have made some costly mistakes that could have been easily avoided; this tends to wipe out whatever sympathy we feel towards them.
After they had told the world they had killed a man they believed to be Abubakar Shekau, the Boko Haram leader, some time ago, a video surfaced of the killing of a man who a lot of people believed was a lookalike before it was so confirmed. A soldier was heard ordering his subordinates to go and shoot him, a man who at that time posed no threat whatsoever. The real Shekau turned up on YouTube weeks later. They lost some more of whatever little trust Nigerians had in them and embarrassed a government, which had run out of lies to tell in foreign lands other than ‘We are capable’.
The Americans subsequently refused to sell us arms on grounds of human rights infringements by our soldiers even after promising us all the help in the world in the search for the Chibok girls. Thanks to soldiers who go into battle with their camera phones to record their exploits, we could no longer conveniently deny human rights violations on their part.
And not to forget, the good old camera phone arguably kick-started the Boko Haram saga when overzealous policemen that time thought it wise to record their gruesome execution of its former leader, Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf, after eliciting a long narrative. Perhaps the sect would have found it hard to gain sympathizers at the onset if the story was different.

The authorities need to act fast before what otherwise is a huge technological leap turns a habitual catalyst for doom. It is most unprofessional on the part of soldiers and law enforcement agents to allow sensitive materials leak into other hands at the worst possible times. The best move would be to rid them of the temptation to do such by banning them outright from taking photos or recording videos at battle scenes or anywhere of the sort.
The rules of engagement and all other rules or laws governing their conduct in combat situations must incorporate such a measure and a stiff penalty for its violation.
We can’t afford to keep overlooking such despicable negligence on the part of those who should appreciate, more than anyone, the drastic consequences of their actions.

  • By Umar Sa’ad Hassan, a lawyer based in Kano.

Twitter:@alaye26 * email: [email protected]

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