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Forced abortion report: NHRC panel grills military, rescued women, others

The investigative panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has grilled military officers, hospital officials and rescued women over the Reuters report…

The investigative panel set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has grilled military officers, hospital officials and rescued women over the Reuters report alleging forced abortion on 10,000 pregnant women by the Nigerian military.

The panel began an independent investigation into the matter on Sunday with a hearing that would run throughout the week.

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 panel, acting on a mandate by the federal government to investigate human rights violations in the counter-insurgency operations in the North East (SIIP-NE), went round the military hospital, State Specialist Hospital and Giwa Barracks where they interacted with the rescued women.

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The chairman of the panel, Justice Abdu Aboki, a retired Supreme Court Judge, along with other members, visited the 7 Division military hospital where the head of the facility, Lt Col. Adeniyi Ogunsanya, was grilled on the purported role his hospital allegedly played in the mass abortion.

But Ogunsanya 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.”

“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 said. 

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.”

At the State Specialist Hospital, the Medical Director (MD) of the hospital, Dr Baba Shehu Mohammed, who was interrogated by the panel’s lead counsel, Mr Hilary Ogbonna, said 

“No public hospital will do that and if such a thing really happens, it will be easy to get the survivor”.  

He said the hospital had received reports of several deaths occasioned by insurgency but none from abortions and massacre of children by the military as alleged.

At Giwa Barack, where nursing mothers were interviewed by the panel members, one of them, Fanna described the report as the “darkest lie she had ever heard.” 

She said the women that surrendered and were taken to the barrack were not up to 50. 

“And, the women’s hostel cannot even accommodate 100 women. Ten thousand is not a small number,” she added.