Nigeria’s military has denied conducting a years-long “illicit programme” to carry out abortions among women and girls who have been victims of militants, calling the report “a body of insults on the Nigerian peoples and culture.”
“Nigerian military personnel have been raised, bred and further trained to protect lives,” it said on Wednesday.
“(The) Nigerian military will not, therefore, contemplate such evil of running a systematic and illegal abortion programme anywhere and anytime, and surely not on our own soil.”
The military was reacting to the Reuters news agency’s report that alleged “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.”
“Many had been kidnapped and raped by militants,” it claimed, adding that those who resisted an abortion ran the risk of being “beaten, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance.”
Reuters said its report was based on witness statements from 33 women and girls, five health workers and nine security personnel involved in the alleged programme, and on military documents and hospital records “describing or tallying thousands of abortion procedures.”
Strict law against illegal termination
Religion plays a core part in Nigerian life, with Islam the dominant faith in the country’s north and Christianity in the south.
Abortion is illegal except when the mother’s life is in danger.
In the country’s north, illegal pregnancy termination carries the risk of a 14-year jail term.
Northeastern Nigeria is the epicentre of a militant insurgency launched by the Boko Haram group in 2009.
More than 40,000 people have died, and around two million people have been displaced in the long-running conflict, which has spilt into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.