Army denies detaining soldier for preaching gospel after converting from Islam
The Army says the soldier was detained for running from his duty post after contravening the institution's social media policy.
This is contained in a statement by the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, on Tuesday in Abuja.
Nwachukwu said the soldier was in custody for violation of some provisions of the Armed Forces Act, saying the said report credited to an online medium was not only a misrepresentation of the true situation.
He described the report as, "An outrageous falsehood tainted with religious bigotry, being peddled against the Nigerian army, a professional institution guided by well established ethics and tradition in all its activities and administration of personnel."
According to him, this is aside the unbiased premium of place accorded the spiritual concern and growth of personnel as well as the sensitivity it attaches to religious practices amongst personnel.
"To set the records straight, Lance Cpl. Musa Adamu, a personnel of the Amphibious Training School was attached to 63 Brigade to participate in an ongoing operation.
"During the operation, he was found preaching in uniform on a social media platform in violation of extant social media policy for the Armed Forces of Nigeria. This prompted his invitation for interrogation by relevant authorities.
"Rather than present himself for the investigation, he absconded for about six and a half months, resulting in the declaration of the soldier on Absence Without Official Leave (AWOL).
"The action of the personnel violates Section 58 (a) (b) Obstruction of Provost Officers and Section 59 (a) (b) Absence Without Leave.
"It must be clarified, that once a personnel is absent from his unit for seven days without any justification, he will be declared on AWOL.
"This automatically triggers the freezing of his salary account, until the personnel returns to unit and is arraigned and sanctioned," he said.
Nwachukwu further clarified that contrary to the erroneous impression that the soldier was being victimised for converting from Islam to Christianity and for preaching the gospel, he was rather taken into custody for investigation.
He said the disciplinary action was in pursuant of statutory provisions enshrined in the Armed Forces Act CAP 20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, which the soldier contravened. According to him, his detention is therefore not unlawful.
"It is expedient to point out that each and every personnel of the Nigerian Army functions under a Corps or Department with stipulated statutory responsibilities manned by qualified personnel trained to effectively execute those duties.
"Hence, religious affairs of the Nigerian army are handled by designated clergy in the Directorates of Chaplain Services (Protestant), (Roman Catholic) and Islamic Affairs.
"Personnel of these directorates are the ones mandated to conduct all religious activities to cater for the spiritual needs of all personnel of the Nigerian army, both in the theatres of operations and within the barracks.
"The question begging for answer is, if the Nigerian Army allowed the soldier to change his religion, why then will it victimise him?
"It is ironical therefore, that an institution that promotes the spiritual wellbeing of its personnel is alleged to have detained the soldier for the expression of his faith, even when it is abundantly clear that he has the opportunity to also change his Corps to any of the Army’s Chaplaincy," Nwachukwu added.
The spokesman further said that the Nigerian Army was guided by ethics, traditions and military laws, which direct personnel on their conducts. He said that violation of those ideals and statutory stipulations evoke sanctions, irrespective of the faith of the offender.
"Consequently, the Nigerian army denounces the libelous publication capable of causing disaffection amongst personnel as well as bringing disrepute and distractions to it.
"The general public are therefore, enjoined to ignore the baseless report aimed at scoring cheap goal by denigrating an institution totally committed to the restoration of peace and stability in Nigeria.
"The support of the good citizens of this country is paramount to the success of the Nigerian army at this crucial time and not unfounded and unconstructive narrations," he added.
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