The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, has advocated for proper religious education and enlightenment to counter insurgency and violent extremism in the country.
Buratai made the call in Maiduguri during a one-day seminar organized by the Nigerian Army for community and religious leaders on countering narratives of terrorism and violent extremism.
The seminar, which had as its theme: “Countering Insurgency and Violent Extremism in Nigeria through Authentic Religious Enlightenment,” was organized by the Nigerian Army Directorate of Chaplain Services.
Buratai, represented by Brig.-Gen. S.G Mustafa, the Director of Islamic Affairs, said that religious and community leaders had a greater role to play in imparting good religious knowledge on the people to change the narratives of the terrorists’ ideology.
He said that the Directorate of the Chaplain Services, which included the Protestant, Roman Catholic and Islamic Religious Affairs, were at the forefront of enlightening the people on dangers of violent extremism and its attendant consequences.
“In continuation of the noble efforts, the seminar is aimed at producing appropriate narratives to defeat the wrong religious ideologies used by leaders of the terrorists and insurgents’ groups to recruit and indoctrinate their followers in the society.
“It is a fall-out of the initial programme of counter narratives conducted in 2018, which generated enthusiasm from leaders in Borno State.
“Due to the fact that the insurgency by Boko-Haram is ideological in nature, there is the need for intellectual discourse to counter extremist ideology by engaging them.
“The seminar will bring to the fore, the urgent need for our spiritual leaders in the Nigerian Army and civil organizations, to come up with modalities and framework in countering terrorism and wrong religious ideologies,” he said.
Buratai added that the seminar would avail Islamic clerics and clergy, the opportunities to identify religious ethos that would bring the faiths together to promote tolerance, understanding, unity, national cohesion and sustainable development.
The army chief commended Borno State Government, community and religious leaders over their support to the counter-terrorism efforts and the de-radicalization process.
On his part, Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno called for prayers to help the military triumph in its campaign against insurgency, banditry and other criminality in the country.
Zulum, who was represented by Alhaji Galadima Zanna, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Religious Affairs, said such prayers were imperative to end insurgency and restore peace in the country.
While lauding the military over the successes recorded in the counter- insurgency campaign and peace restoration process, Zulum pledged continued support to the military.
Also speaking, Rev. John Bakeni of the Maiduguri Diocese and Dr Yusuf Kabir, an Islamic cleric, commended the military for organizing the seminar, adding that it would go a long way in changing the terrorists’ ideologies in the society.
Highlight of the seminar included presentation of papers by academics drawn from University of Maiduguri and other institutions of higher learning.
The event was attended by military personnel, government officials, community and religious leaders, as well as representatives of Faith and Community based organizations.