HURIWA Demands Military Focus on National Defense

HURIWA Demands Military Focus on National Defense

…Criticizes Religious and Language Bias

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called for the Nigerian Army to redirect its focus to its primary duty of defending the nation rather than engaging in religious activities.

This reaction follows the recent denial by the Nigerian Army of allegations that it prioritizes Islamic religious instruction over other faiths.

“Last week, a viral report suggested that the Nigerian Army ran only a School of Islamic Affairs, neglecting other religious beliefs. Major General Onyema Nwachukwu, the Director of Army Public Relations, dismissed these allegations as false and misleading. He emphasized that the Nigerian Army is a secular institution that upholds religious freedom for all its personnel, providing training schools for various faiths including Protestant and Catholic institutions alongside the School of Islamic Affairs”, HURIWA recalled these points in their statement”.

However, HURIWA insisted that the existence of such religious schools is unnecessary and misaligned with the military’s core mandate of defending Nigeria’s territorial integrity. In a statement signed by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA argued that while it is essential to cater to the religious needs of military personnel, this should not extend to setting up theological schools. Instead, they proposed that individual members can make personal arrangements for their worship needs or that the institution can assist in establishing worship centers as part of their welfare programs.

“The Nigerian military was not established as a religious body but as an armed force tasked with defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria. The creation of religious schools, whether for Islamic or Christian studies, is entirely inappropriate and detracts from the military’s primary mission,” HURIWA stated. “In advanced societies such as the UK, Canada, or the US, the military does not engage in theological education. The Nigerian Army should follow suit.”

HURIWA further pointed out that the diversion of the military’s attention to religious education could be a contributing factor to its struggles in effectively combating terrorism. The organization stressed that religious leaders like Imams, Reverends, and Chaplains within the military are sufficient for attending to the spiritual needs of personnel without the need for formal religious schools.

“The purpose of chaplaincy in the military is to provide spiritual support, not to serve as an educational institution. The core mandate of the military is to defend Nigeria, and resources should be fully committed to this purpose,” HURIWA added.

Another significant issue raised by HURIWA is the perceived linguistic and cultural bias within the Nigerian Army. The association highlighted that Hausa appears to be the dominant language spoken within military institutions, which they believe undermines the unity and inclusiveness of the armed forces.

“When you visit any military institution in Nigeria, Hausa is predominantly spoken. Even Igbo personnel feel compelled to speak Hausa, reinforcing the perception of a sectional army. This is unacceptable for a national institution like the military,” HURIWA asserted. “From the Defense Headquarters in Abuja to various military establishments, the predominance of Hausa is evident. The Nigerian Military must strive to become a truly national force where all languages are respected, and English, our official language, is predominantly used.”

HURIWA also criticized the use of Arabic inscriptions, such as ‘Nasrunminallah’ on army insignia, arguing that such symbols further alienate non-Muslim personnel and citizens. “The Nigerian Army is a national institution, not an Arabic or Islamic army. All symbols and practices should reflect the national character and not favor any particular religion or region,” the statement read.

The association stressed that a truly national military should be free from religious and ethnic biases to foster unity and inclusiveness, highlighting that the approach would help in building a cohesive force capable of effectively defending the nation’s territorial integrity without any internal divisions.

In conclusion, HURIWA called for the Nigerian military to recommit to its foundational principles of national defense and inclusivity. The association urged the leadership to address these issues to foster greater trust and unity within the armed forces and among the Nigerian populace.

“To dispel doubts and foster unity, the Nigerian military must prioritize national defense and ensure an inclusive environment where all personnel, regardless of their religious or ethnic background, feel valued and respected. Only then can the military effectively fulfill its mandate of protecting the nation,” HURIWA concluded.

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