The Nigerian Army says it does not deploy its troops along ethnic or religious lines in the ongoing operations in dealing with terrorism, banditry and other security challenges confronting the nation.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima, said this in a statement on Monday in reaction to a statement allegedly credited to Sheikh Ahmed Gumi.
While noting that Gumi had alleged that non-Muslim soldiers were responsible for the attacks against bandits, Yerima urged him to exercise restraint not to drag the image and reputation of the Nigerian Army to disrepute.
According to him, the Islamic scholar was seen in the video clip telling the bandits that the soldiers involved in most attacks against them were non-Muslims and that soldiers were divided into Muslims and non-Muslims.
He explained that most operations conducted by the Nigerian Army were done in strict adherence to rules of engagement, code of conduct and respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizenry without any exception.
Yerima said it was, therefore, disturbing that an opinion leader would deliberately want to disparage the Nigeria Army to portray it in bad light.
He advised opinion leaders to be more courteous while expressing their views.
He also urged them to take into cognisance the imperative for national security, particularly at a time when troops had redoubled their efforts to tackle the myriads of security challenges facing our dear nation.
According to him, the only thing the gallant troops needed now is public support to discharge their responsibility effectively and in most professional manner.
Yerima said: “While the Nigerian Army would not want to join issues with the respected Sheik Ahmed Gumi, it is, however, important to restate that the Nigerian Army as national institution does not deploy its troops along ethnic or religious lines.
“Therefore Sheikh Gumi and other opinion merchants are please enjoined to exercise restraint not to drag the image and reputation of one of the most reliable national institutions to disrepute.
“The Nigerian Army remains the pride of the nation and has continually defended the territorial integrity of this great nation.
“Comments suggesting to mudslide the image and reputation of the Nigerian Army are not only inimical but tended towards creating bad blood amongst Nigerians.”