The Nigerian army says an alleged secret abortion program for women rescued from Boko Haram never took place. However, human rights groups insist a thorough probe into the claims is crucial.
The Nigerian Human Rights Commission - which is currently probing allegations of army-backed abortions among Boko Haram captives - has promised its final report will be thorough amid repeated denials from the country's military.
The commission's special panel has been holding public hearings since February this year when it launched a special investigation.
A secret, military-run mass abortion program was alleged to have been carried out by the Nigerian army as part of its fight against extremist group Boko Haram in the country's northeast.
An investigative report released in December last year claimed the military had overseen approximately 10,000 abortions on women and girls who were detained and raped by the Islamist militants.
"We are succeeding and not many are happy that we are succeeding, they cannot reverse our successes therefore they rubbish it," Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya said while testifying before the special panel last month.
"Sometimes, they are playing other people's script. We are not Boko Haram terrorists, we are trained to be professionals and the training is continuous."
Yahaya denied that the secret abortions took place, which were said to have been carried out on the rescued wives of Boko Haram fighters while they were living in displaced person's camps.
Military Denies Abortion Report
According to the original Reuters report, the alleged abortions were mostly performed without the women's consent between 2013 and 2022.
General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, a former Chief of Army Staff who served between 2015 and 2021, told DW that he doubted the existence of the abortion program.
"The Chief of Defence Staff has said it very clear and nothing of that [happened]," he said
"When I was there too I never heard it, nobody had reported it."
Buratai explained that the army had special arrangements in place for the care of pregnant women.
"We have facilities where women were kept, including pregnant women and they are all allowed to deliver normally. And the commander there always pays all the medical bills and organizes naming ceremonies, so I can't understand the basis [of the allegations]."
Rights Groups Demand Fair Probe
But some human rights activists are suspicious of the military's denials and have demanded thorough investigations into the allegations.
Udeme Edoemaowo from the Network Against Domestic Violence Foundation told DW that civil society groups are contemplating carrying out their own probe.
"We want to investigate, we want to do something about these women and be sure, because if the Nigerian army is claiming that the thing is not true, we have to do something," she said.
The Nigerian Human Rights Commission said that it is committed to carrying out a thorough investigation.
"The commission welcomes the cooperation extended to it by all agencies of government and in this case the Nigerian military," Tony Ojukwu, the Executive Secretary of the Human Right Commission told DW
"The determination of the commission [is] to investigate the allegation." But Edoemaowo said her coalition of civil society groups would also still want to verify the claims themselves.
"[We will go and investigate this thing because we will not take it lying down, we have to fight and be sure," she said.
"We have to go to Maiduguri...We have to do everything we can do to ensure that we find the truth on this matter."
Claims of a Distraction from a Larger Fight
Andy Parah, an Abuja-based Nigerian lawyer, told DW that the military must avoid any cover ups, but said the allegations could divert attention from the ongoing fight against Boko Haram.
"I don't see how terminating the pregnancies of victims of rape by Boko Haram men will solve [local people's] problems," he said.
"They have even greater problems. They have problems of resettlement, their homes that have been destroyed, their livelihoods...this is a much greater problem than the issue of abortion. It is an attempt to divert attention from the main battle," he said.
Former Chief of Army Staff General Buratai, said he considered the allegations a "subversive strategy or campaign against Nigeria and of course even Africa," without providing evidence for his claims.
Human rights groups have called for the final report of the investigation to be made public, which the Human Rights Commission has assured will be done in accordance with the principles of fair hearing.
Source: All Africa