An investigation by Reuters, an international news agency, has accused the Nigerian Army of carrying out illegal abortions on victims of insurgency in the north-east.
According to the Reuters investigation, since 2013, the Nigerian military has conducted a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the country’s north-east region.
In the report, at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls were ended.
“The existence of the army-run abortion programme hasn’t been previously reported. The campaign relied on deception and physical force against women who were kept in military custody for days or weeks,” the investigation reads in part.
Soldiers interviewed during the investigation were said to have revealed that women who resisted the forced abortion were either beaten or drugged into compliance.
“Three soldiers and a guard said they commonly assured women, who often were debilitated from captivity in the bush, that the pills and injections given to them were to restore their health and fight diseases such as malaria,” the report reads.
“In some instances, women who resisted were beaten, caned, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance.
“Others were tied or pinned down, as abortion drugs were inserted inside them, said a guard and a health worker.”
Although Reuters said it could not establish who created the abortion programme or who in the military or government ran it, forced abortions reportedly occurred in at least five military facilities and five civilian hospitals in the region, especially in Maiduguri, the Borno capital.
Military denies allegations
However, the military denied infanticide allegations, days before it was published, and accused the news agency of ‘wickedness.’
The Defence Headquarters described the report as false and concocted by Reuters in a statement issued by the Director of Defence Information, Major General Jimmy Akpor, adding that the news agency team behind the story is “cruel.”
He stated that children were among the 82,064 Boko Haram terrorists that surrendered to troops, adding that none of them was eliminated.
The statement partly read, “It took Reuters 13 solid years to craft an allegation of infanticide against the Nigerian military and the Nigerian nation. This shows that a news agency as “renowned” as Reuters is itself complicit in failing in its mandate to draw attention to and inform the public about supposed occurrences that violate not only the laws of armed conflict but also international humanitarian law.
Let us analyse the period from July 2021 to November 2022. A total of 82,064 Boko Haram fighters and family members have surrendered to Operation Hadin Kai troops. Out of this number, 16,553 were active male fighters, 24,446 were women, and 41,065 were children. The Borno State Government is camping and accommodating them family-by-family, as per households, without having to separate the children from their parents.
“In the same camp are thousands of pregnant women and nursing mothers. A total of 262 babies were born within 4 months (94 in July, 98 in August, 60 in September, and 11 in October 2022). This figure comprises 150 female and 112 male children. The children were neither aborted nor yanked from their mothers.
“Hmmm! wickedness really runs in the veins of some people, and it surely runs deep in the veins of the Reuters team that concocted such evil for interrogation.”
CSO rejects report
Meanwhile, a civil society organisation, North East Advocacy for Peace, accused Reuters of trying to truncate the newly found peace in the region.
The group attributed the return of peace to ongoing military operations in the region and described as an unethical and failed mission the attempt by Reuters to use its medium to undermine national security.
The president of the group, Abdul Monguno, in a statement on Wednesday, said “Reuters is going petty in a concocted plot to smear the image of the Armed Forces of Nigeria with fake propaganda and unsubstantiated claims.”