By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The frontline civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has asked the hierarchy of the Nigeria Army not to lower the bar and also never to opt for double standard by only dishing out timid and ridiculous warning to the Kaduna based Islamic cleric Sheikh Ahmed Abubakar Gumi whose recent fraternity with terrorists amounts to treason.
HURIWA said the failure of the Army to act decisively to protect the integrity of both the military institution and the war on terror from the persistent treasonous actions and spoken words of Sheikh Gumi shows that in Nigeria the law is a respecter of certain persons because of their religion and ethnicity.
HURIWA said taking practical and law based action against Sheikh GUMI is the only way the Nigerian Army can demonstrate what it has always been known for as a professional institution whose leadership has always been recognized as constitutional purists, is for the Nigerian Army to take unambiguous measures against the actions and incitement to violence made in a recorded statement by Sheikh GUMI which the Rights group believes has caused immeasurable harm to the Nigerian Army and the morale of her members especially given that by all standards the Nigerian Military is the most unifying institution whereby tongue, tribes or religion are relegated to the background and what matters most is ABSOLUTE LOYALTY to the Nigerian Constitution.
The Rights group then asked the Army why it thinks that the treasonable act of inciting terrorists against the Army on the basis of the religious affiliations of the operatives and officers as made in a recorded video in circulation by Sheikh Gumi is such that the Army’s hierarchy is trying to trivialize by only issuing warning as if the military has become a toothless bulldog.
The group said the Army has had consistent record of adopting strict compliance to the laws of the land over the years and is known to be a thoroughly professional institution whose hierarchy does not trivialize such heavy criminal offences such as incitement to commit violence against the Army and wonders why the Army thinks it was perfectly right to classify Nnamdi Kanu’s indigenous people of Biafra as a terror group but a man in the person of Gumi who actively incited terrorists against the Army and is known to fraternize and defend terrorists should only be given a warning and be left to roam freely amongst law abiding citizens.
“The Nigerian Army is a thoroughly disciplined force and as a creation of the law, the citizens do not expect the hierarchy to stand by and only issue verbal warning to someone who encouraged terrorists to go after some military officers only because they are Christians who he accused wrongly as those who have been deployed to kill the terrorists also known as armed bandits by the government.”
“Sheikh Gumi committed treason and the penalty for treason is not to be issued verbal warning. Why were the members of Eastern Security Network who did no wrong but volunteered to protect their ancestral lands from terrorists be bombarded on the invitation of Imo State governor Hope Uzodinma but Sheikh Gumi who openly called for violence against Christian members of the Army is only just being given warning. What is that please?”
According to HURIWA for the umpteenth time: “Here is why Gumi must be arrested and prosecuted: According to terrorism (prevention) ACT, 2011 Section 4(1) A person who knowingly, in any manner, solicits or renders support for. – (a) an act of terrorism; or a proscribed organisation or an internationally suspected terrorist group. An offence under this Act and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a maximum term of 20 years. Without prejudice to subsection (2) of this section, where death results from any terrorist act, the penalty shall be the death sentence: For the purposes of subsection (I) of this section, “support” includes. (a) Incitement to commit a terrorist act; (b) Offer of material assistance, weapons, including biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, explosives, training. Transportation, false documentation or identification; (c) Offer or provision of moral assistance, including invitation to adhere to a proscribed organization; and (d) The provision of, or making available, such financial or other related services as may be prescribed in this act.”
HURIWA recalled that the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army had warned popular Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi and other “opinion merchants” in the country to exercise restraint with their utterances and not drag the Army to disrepute.
HURIWA said the Army said contrary to Gumi’s statements to bandits recently that Christian soldiers were the ones killing the bandits, the Army does not deploy troops along religious or ethnic lines.
The Rights group said the verbal warning was contained in a statement issued on Monday titled, ‘Nigerian Army Does Not Deploy Its Troops Along Ethnic Or Religious Lines’.
The statement was signed by Director, Army Public Relations, Mohammed Yerima.
Excerpts of the statement read: “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to a viral video-clip showing the renowned and respected Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, alleging that non-Muslim soldiers were responsible for the attacks against bandits.
“In the video clip, the Islamic scholar was seen telling the bandits that the soldiers involved in most attacks against them were non-Muslims. He further stated that they should be aware that soldiers are divided into Muslims and non-Muslims.
“While the Nigerian Army would not want to join issues with the respected Sheikh 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 Ahmed 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.
“Furthermore, 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. It is therefore, disturbing that an opinion leader would deliberately want to disparage the Nigerian Army to portray it in bad light.
“The Nigerian Army wishes to seize this opportunity to advise opinion leaders to be more courteous while expressing their views, taking into cognisance the imperative for national security, particularly at this difficult times when our gallant troops have redoubled their efforts to tackle the myriads of security challenges facing our dear nation. What our troops need now is public support to discharge their responsibility effectively and in the most professional manner.”
The Rights group said the measures are not sufficient and could be perceived by a lot of Nigerians from the South as a sign that certain sacred cows are above the law, a perception that could also make a lot of people think that the Nigerian laws are made for two different types of Citizens and that some citizens are treated as UNTOUCHABLE.