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Nigerian Air Force Officer Sentenced to Two Years for Delivering Lecture at Christian Event

by Ikem Emmanuel

In a concerning turn of events, an officer of the Nigerian Air Force, Master Warrant Officer (MWO) James Tumba, has been sentenced to two years in prison. Tumba had been detained since October 13, 2021, in Jos, Plateau State, for delivering a lecture at a Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) event in Kaduna State.

The detention and subsequent sentencing of military officers for their involvement in a Christian event have raised questions about religious freedom and persecution in Nigeria. In September 2023, SaharaReporters had already reported that five officers were detained for delivering a lecture at a CAN event. These officers were arrested over allegations of disobeying military standing rules.

Tumba’s Sentencing:

SaharaReporters confirmed that MWO James Tumba received a two-year jail term from a court-martial after spending two years and three weeks in a military detention facility in Jos. Tumba had delivered a lecture at the CAN event, which subsequently led to his detention.

Questions of Religious Persecution:

Family members and sources close to Tumba have argued that his detention and sentencing are not due to any criminal offenses but rather religious persecution. They assert that Tumba had been tasked with intelligence work across several states and had the necessary permissions and identification to engage with various organizations.

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Charges and Witness Issues:

During the court-martial, Tumba faced a three-count charge, with the first count dropped. One of the main issues highlighted was the difficulty in presenting witnesses. Tumba had requested that an officer who had sent him on his assignment testify, but the court-martial demanded that he cover the officer’s transportation, feeding, and accommodation costs. This created a significant barrier to presenting witnesses.


Concerns in the Air Force:

A senior officer within the Air Force Headquarters expressed dismay over these events and the sentencing of officers who had been detained for their involvement in the CAN event. This officer noted that the situation appears to be a form of persecution against Christian officers, rather than a matter of military discipline.

While these developments raise concerns about religious freedom and persecution, they also bring attention to the complexities and challenges faced by military personnel in Nigeria. The officer’s sentencing highlights the need for a closer examination of the relationship between religious expression and military service within the country. Despite efforts to seek a response from the NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, no response was received at the time of reporting.

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