- It Is Not True, Says The Nigerian Military
The Nigerian military has conducted a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the northeast, ending at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls since 2013, according to an investigation by Reuters news agency. The report said many women had been kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants while those who try to resist were beaten, held at gunpoint, or drugged into compliance.
The abortions were mostly carried out without the person’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.
In a special report released on Wednesday, Reuters said it relied on interviews with 33 women and girls, five civilian healthcare workers, and nine security personnel. It also said it reviewed copies of military documents and civilian hospital records describing or tallying thousands of abortion procedures.
According to the report, “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. 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”
“Central to the abortion programme is a notion widely held within the military and among some civilians in the northeast: that the children of insurgents are predestined, by the blood in their veins, to one day take up arms against the Nigerian government and society. Four soldiers and one guard said they were told by superiors that the programme was needed to destroy insurgent fighters before they could be born.
“It’s just like sanitising the society,” said a civilian health worker, one of seven people who acknowledged performing abortions under army orders.
Four of the health workers interviewed by Reuters also said that the programme was for the good of the women and any children they might bear, who would face the stigma of being associated with an insurgent father.
“The army-run abortion programme has been in place since at least 2013, and procedures were being performed through at least November of last year, according to accounts from soldiers. The enterprise has been elaborately engineered, the sources told Reuters, with pregnant former captives of insurgents transported regularly in trucks under armed guard, sometimes in convoys, to barracks or hospitals across the northeast for abortions”
“The procedures have occurred in at least five military facilities and five civilian hospitals in the region, according to witness accounts and documentation reviewed by Reuters. Many occurred in Maiduguri, the largest city in Nigeria’s northeast and the command centre of the government’s war on Islamist extremists”
The Nigerian military has denied the programme has ever existed and said Reuters reporting was part of a foreign effort to undermine the country’s fight against the insurgents. On Dec. 2, Major General Jimmy Akpor the military’s director of defense information released a five-page statement to reporters, saying that the report was motivated by “wickedness” and a “bullying” mentality. “The fictitious series of stories actually constitute a body of insults on the Nigerian peoples and culture,” Akpor added. “Nigerian military personnel has 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.”