The Nigerian army has urged Ahmad Gumi, an Islamic cleric, to exercise restraint in his comments regarding military operations.
Gumi was quoted to have said non-Muslim soldiers allegedly carried out orchestrated killings of bandits.
The cleric had also claimed that such killings spurred bandits to carry out attacks.
Replying in a statement on Monday, the army said it does not deploy troops along ethnic or religious lines, adding that soldiers carry out their duties in line with the provisions of the constitution, and with respect for fundamental human rights.
The military accused Gumi of deliberately wanting to “disparage the Nigerian Army to portray it in bad light”.
“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 a national institution, does not deploy its troops along ethnic or religious lines,” the statement reads.
“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 army further warned those it referred to as “opinion leaders” to be cautious of national security when expressing their views.
It added that the troops need support, not discouragement, to discharge their duties professionally.