The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has set up a panel to probe the allegation of an elaborate secret abortion programme operated by the Nigerian military in the North-east.
Reuters had in an investigative report published in December 2022 alleged that the Nigerian military ran the programme, secretly terminating at least 10,000 pregnancies of freed captives of Boko Haram terrorists in the troubled region over the years.
A spokesperson for the NHRC, Fatimah Mohammed, said in a statement on Tuesday that the inauguration of a seven-member panel appointed to probe the charge would take place 10 a.m. on 7 February. It will be held at the Bukhari Bello Auditorium located in the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
The panel is known in full as Special Independent Investigative Panel on Human Rights Violations in the Implementation of Counter Insurgency Operations in the North East (SIIP-North East). It will be led by Abdu Aboki, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, as the chairperson.
The NHRC’s Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, a Senior Advocate (SAN), according to the statement, has said the appointment of the panel was triggered by the Reuters’ report. “Besides, the international media organisation had alleged that the Military was involved in the massacre of children as well as other Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in the North East,” Mr Ojukwu said.
Many of the pregnancies, according to Reuters, resulted from rape of the kidnapped women and girls by Boko Haram fighters. The sources for the story, according to the organisation, included dozens of witness accounts and documentation reviewed by Reuters.
The report had generated controversies with many calling for an independent investigation into the allegations of systemic and coerced abortions reportedly perpetrated by the Nigerian army.
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called on the Nigerian authorities to begin a thorough investigation and “immediate remedial actions and accountability measures.”
In its reaction, the Nigerian government, on the other hand, rejected the Reuters report, stating that there was no secret programme of forced abortions run by its military in the country’s northeast.