Forced Abortion: Investigative Panel Begins Probe Of Military In Northeast Nigeria

The investigation follows Reuters reports last year about a secret abortion programme run by the military in the northeast of the country.

An independent human rights panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission has begun investigations into reports of a secretive abortion programme run by Nigeria’s military in the Northeast. 

The panel’s hearing which commenced on Saturday continued on Monday in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

In December last year, the Reuters news agency published a report which disclosed that the Nigerian military had operated a secretive and illegal abortion programme, terminating at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls since 2013. 

The federal government in February formed the Special Independent Investigation Panel on Human Rights Violations in the Counter Insurgency Operations in the North East (SIIP-NE) with the mandate to investigate the Reuters findings.

The SIIP-NE has Justice Abdu Aboki, a retired High Court Judge, as chair of the panel.

On Saturday, Feb. 11, the panel visited the 7 Division military hospital where the head of the facility, Lt Col. Adeniyi Ogunsanya, was questioned for over two hours under oath by the panel’s Secretary and Counsel, Barrister Hillary. 

The officer, also a Consultant Trauma Surgeon, described the allegations of abuses in the Reuters report as “mere claims that can be made by anybody which has no foundation or proof to back it up.”

“We have never had such issues in this hospital, and neither have we gotten any report in all our records of over ten years of this hospital.” 

The Commander, who has spent 16 years in the army’s medical corp, explained that “When troops rescue civilian victims from Boko Haram or during a crossfire, they are usually rescued and taken to the rear of the advancing forces where they are given emergency care before they are taken either by road or by air ambulance to the 7 Division Hospital in Maiduguri”. 

He added that at the hospital, they are “medically examined, given needed treatment and then handed back to the Theater Command from where they are taken to the government-owned hospitals for further medical attention”. 

We only admitted the rescued  Chibok Schoolgirls. 

During his brief, the officer stated that the 12 Chibok schoolgirls rescued in 2022 were the only female victims of Boko Haram that were admitted and kept in the hospital for a day. 

He explained that two of the girls were rescued with pregnancy and were not forced or asked to abort the pregnancy.

This hospital does not sanction or carry out any pregnancy on any patient. The officer told the panel. 

“On the general rescue from the field, we had no single case of diagnosed pregnancy. We don’t admit them here, as I said, but we transfer them to the State Specialists Hospital, where the ICRC has a clinic.”

On the hospital’s abortion register, he responded, “no, we don’t have such a record because we don’t conduct abortions in this hospital, so there is no basis for having an abortion register. 

He further explained that abortion could only be done in the case of medical abortion, which he said is done to save lives and with consent. 

According to the Reuters report, “the clandestine nature of the programme makes it impossible to determine the total number of abortions performed.” But the panel is determined to investigate the matter, including finding and speaking to the alleged victims to unravel the truth and ensure justice.

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Abdulkareem Haruna

Abdulkareem Haruna is a Nigerian journalist currently employed as the Editor for Lake Chad at HumAngle. For over a decade, he has demonstrated a passionate commitment to reporting on the Boko Haram conflict and the crisis in the Lake Chad region of northeastern Nigeria. He is a graduate of English Language and holds a Diploma in Mass Communications. Prior to his current role, he served as an assistant editor at both Premium Times and Leadership Newspaper.

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