After a Reuters investigation claimed an illegal abortion program is operating within the Nigerian military, the government denounced the report and claimed there is no truth to the matter. Despite this, the Nigerian Chief of Defense Staff has called for an independent investigation into the claim.
The Premium Times reported that Lucky Irabor called for the investigation during a meeting on Friday. Irabor and other defense staff members visited the Executive Secretary of the commission, Tony Ojukwu, and he continued to deny the allegations, saying an independent investigation would prove the military has done nothing wrong.
Irabor said the Nigerian military is bound by their country’s constitution, as well as by international humanitarian laws.
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“In recent times, there have been reports which alluded that the armed forces is involved in government programme of abortions in the North-east of Nigeria from 2013,” he said. “And that report was published by Reuters and of course when we looked at it, we felt this is certainly not us and it does not indeed represent the professional standing of the armed forces of Nigeria. Where we have footprints of operations in line with the dictates of the constitution. We felt that perhaps there are some extra territorial powers that want to weaken the strength of the armed forces being at the forefront of the current engagements that seeks to bring peace to our land.”
So it is in that light that I have come to formally inform you if perhaps you are not thinking about it that we as an armed force stand ready for any investigation, and I think in this case, the NHRC stands a good ground to carry out an investigation.
Irabor also added that the information contained in the report was “evil,” while Ojukwu promised the report would remain open and transparent.
The Reuters investigation claimed that at least 10,000 women were forced into abortions, based on interviews with 33 women and girls, all allegedly victims of the program. Many of them were said to be victims of Boko Haram, or a splinter group called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The women were kidnapped, forced into marriages, and then repeatedly raped. They had been held captive until the Nigerian military freed them. But the women who were pregnant were then allegedly “beaten, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance” in the abortion scheme.