I have a green camouflage trucker hat. Unfortunately, I cannot rock this cool cap in public because of the fear of the Nigerian army.
I only wear the camo cap when I am shooting my show Music 360. After shooting the music review show, I put back in my bag. It's tempting to wear the cool trucker hat but the fear of the Nigerian army is the beginning of sense.
A colleague of mine told me to buy the exact camo green hat for him and I did. He was bolder than me. After work, he went out wearing the cap. Two soldiers on a bike took it from him. Luckily for him, they were in a hurry so they did not punish him in public.
I have heard of horror tales of how civilians caught wearing a camo cap, shirt or pants are made to do the frog jump in public. Sometimes, erring civilians are flogged.
In the 90s, at the height of military rule in Nigeria, soldiers would threaten people who had army green cars to change the colour of their cars or else... A former neighbour of mine had to put a black stripe across her army green Mercedes Benz after several warnings from soldiers.
Even though military dictatorship ended in Nigeria in 1999, the zero tolerance to civilians rocking camo still persists today. This hasn't stopped entertainers from wearing it and making it a symbol of coolness and badassness. Wearing a piece of camo is the same as having a pair of ripped jeans. It is both cool and rebellious.
Pop stars such as M.I, Wizkid, Ice Prince and others have been documented numerous times wearing camo pants, jackets, shirts or caps. However, in July 2015, the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna (the institution that trains soldiers) warned rapper M.I and singer Charass about wearing camo. "we have noticed u! And the arm of bars must prevail."
In other parts of the world, it's no big deal to wear camo. In Nigeria, it is an invitation for trouble. And for those who don't know, it is illegal to wear camo. It is in our (far from okay) constitution.
Section 110 & 111 of Nigeria Criminal Code Act states;
Any person who- Unlawfully wearing the uniform of forces, etc. L.N. 112 of 1964. 1967 No. 27.
(1) not being a person serving in any of the armed forces of Nigeria, wears the uniform or any part of the uniform of such forces, or any the armed dress having the appearance or bearing any of the regimental or other distinctive marks of such uniforms; or
(2) not being a person holding any office or authority under the Government of Nigeria or of any part thereof, wears any uniform or distinctive badge or mark or carries any token calculated to convey the impression that such person holds any office or authority under the government;
is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for one month, or to a fine of ten naira, unless he proves that he had the permission of the President or of the Governor of a State or wear such uniform or dress, badge or mark or to carry such token:
Provided that this section shall not apply to the wearing of any uniform or dress in the course of a stage play or in any bona fide public entertainment.
111. Any person who sells or gives any uniform, or part of a or any dress, badge or mark, as in the last preceding section mentioned, to any person who is not authorised to wear the same, is guilty of an offence and is liable to the penalties prescribed in the said section.
Section 251 of the Constitution also 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 forty naira.
The offence for wearing camo is laughable and indicates this part of the Constitution has not been updated. Ten Naira and Forty Naira might make this law seem laughable but in Section 110 (1) in Lagos State Law (2011) it is a serious business which says the penalty for wearing camo is 2 years imprisonment with no option of fine.
This is so not cool. Who does wearing camo hurt? We have to remember that Nigeria is a highly militarised country even though we are into almost 2 decades of democratic rule. We still see soldiers with AK-47 rifles regularly on our roads like a coup has just happened. Military men still beat up civilians for the most trivial of things like rite of way.
In 2008, a video of a woman beaten up by the guards of a Navy officer went viral. Scenes like this are very prevalent in Nigeria where members of the armed force beat civilians for the silliest of things. Just like in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, the average military man sees himself as better than the average Nigerian and therefore can discipline him or her at any time. This thinking is one of the relics of our military history that has been allowed to exist till today.
The camouflage is the sacred clothing of a soldier and a Nigerian soldier is enraged when he sees a bloody civilian wear the same camouflage he shed blood for. Of course, this is silly.
The more reasonable reason why camouflage is outlawed is because of security. Nigeria is a porous country security wise. If civilians are allowed to wear camouflage, the most outrageous of crimes would take place.
I mean we still hear stories of armed robbers dressed as soldiers robbing a bank and con artists wearing full camouflage duping people. This is Nigeria and savagery is high here but outlawing camo for civilians is extreme. Nigeria loves extremities.
Nigeria isn't the only country that has outlawed camo for civilians. Caribbean nations and in India are on board with the outlaw of camo for civillians. Surprisingly, world powers such as America and Russia who have some of the most powerful armies in the world do not have this rule. In most countries on earth, civilians wearing camo is not outlawed. I guess in most countries around the world, most military men do not wear camouflage in public. They dress like civilians. It's only during martial law that you see soldiers on the streets of America. On a normal day, any individual seen wearing camo is believed to be a civilian.
As earlier stated, Nigeria is highly militarised. No one sees nothing wrong in seeing soldiers dressed in full camo on the streets with machine guns. Only in an abnormal country like Nigeria can soldiers roam the street like an alien invasion was imminent.
The security threat in the outlaw of camo is quite reasonable but we have to move on with the times. The outlaw of camo hasn't stopped fraudsters from impersonating soldiers and armed robbers dressing like soldiers. We have to deal with our security problem squarely and demilitarise the country. That means soldiers can only wear camo in the barracks and they have no right to brandish weapons in public and beat up civilians.
For now, we have to sneak around wearing camo because our politicians as always have failed to move with the times and are stuck in a past where the army fatigue was stronger than the will of the people.