Since 2013, an estimated number of 10, 000 women and girls were subjected to forceful abortions by the Nigerian military curtailing insurgency in the northeastern part of the country, an investigation by Reuters has revealed.
The females were said to be victims of rape and abduction in the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency in Maiduguri, Borno State.
According to witnesses, the abortions mostly were conducted without the victim’s consent and often without their prior knowledge. The women and girls ranged from a few weeks to eight months pregnant, and some were as young as 12 years old, Reuters reports.
Since at least 2013, the Nigerian military has conducted a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the country’s northeast, ending at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls, a Reuters investigation has found. Many had been kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants. Resisters were beaten, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance, witnesses say.
The report further revealed that the existence of the army-run abortion programme hasn’t been formerly reported. The campaign relied on deception and physical force against women who were kept in military custody for days or weeks.
“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. 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.
Furthermore, the abortion was carried out in the northeastern states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, where the Nigerian military has been fighting Boko Haram.
However, the army has vehemently denied the claims, saying the report was part of a foreign effort to thwart the country’s battle against the insurgents.
“Not in Nigeria, not in Nigeria,” said Major General Christopher Musa, who heads the military’s counterinsurgency campaign in the northeast, in a November 24 interview with Reuter. “Everybody respects life. We respect families. We respect women and children. We respect every living soul.”
General Lucky Irabor, Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, did not acknowledge requests for comment from Reuters. On December 2, a week after Reuters sought an interview with Irabor and shared detailed findings and questions with his office, the military’s director of defence information released a five-page statement to reporters and later posted it on Facebook and Twitter.
Major General Jimmy Akpor said Reuters was motivated by “wickedness” and a “bullying” mentality, according to the statement.
“The fictitious series of stories actually constitute a body of insults on the Nigerian peoples and culture,” Akpor said. “Nigerian military personnel have been raised, bred and further trained to protect lives, even at their own risk, especially when it concerns the lives of children, women and the elderly.”