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Nigeria debunks Reuters report on forced abortion by military in northeast

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Nigeria has denied that the military is running a secret abortion service on female victims of Boko Haram and insurgence in the northeast part of the country, which was widely reported by Reuters.

According to the Minister of Information Lai Mohammed, a report by a foreign news agency that no fewer than 10,000 female victims of insurgence in the northeast part of the country were subjected to forced abortions by the military in Nigeria was a concocted one.

Mohammed, at a press conference on Monday, wondered how the news agency arrived at the figure after reportedly speaking with 33 persons and relying on “unidentified sources” only as the basis for the story.

The minister said, “As you are all aware, an international news agency recently reported that the Nigerian military, in their fight against Boko Haram/ISWAP, has been running a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the Northeast, ostensibly – according to the news agency – because ‘the children of insurgents are predestined, by the blood in their veins, to one day take up arms against the Nigerian government and society.’

The story also claimed that 10,000 such abortions have been carried out from 2013 to date on women and girls.

“The news agency made this grave allegation without a scintilla of evidence, citing only anonymous sources and the reported review of phantom documents.”

The agency claimed that its investigation was based on interviews with 33 women and girls. Interview with 33 women and girls to arrive at the bogus claim of 10,000 abortions. And in a further indication that the figure of abortions quoted was arbitrary or possibly conjured, the agency first put the figure at 12,000 before settling for 10,000.

“The Federal Government hereby categorically states that there is no ‘secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme’ being run by our military in the Northeast or anywhere across the country. We also hereby reject the accusation of running an abortion programme leveled at our military,  We state categorically that this story is a scary instance of fake news and disinformation combined. The writers deserve an award in fiction writing.

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“The question is: what’s the motive of this news agency and the usual suspects who have latched on to this story? Why is this so-called investigation coming at a time that our heroic men and women in uniform have been recording success after success, decimating the terrorists, rescuing abducted persons and receiving hundreds of thousands of terrorists who have surrendered?

“For the record, the Nigerian military has rescued 11 Chibok girls with all their children, 2,018 other persons (comprising 339 adult males, 660 adult females and 1019 children), while 82,645 persons, comprising 16,621 male fighters, 24,638 women and 41,386 children, have surrendered.

“The military has also neutralized 494 terrorists (note that this does not include terrorists neutralized through airstrikes and terrorists’ infighting). Why is this news agency not playing up this positive news but instead choosing to give prominence to a phantom abortion story?

“Is this a ploy to demoralize and distract our fighting forces? Is it a strategy to set the world against Nigeria and cut off the support that is critical to crushing terrorists? Only the news agency can answer these questions.

“But we stand by our military, which has served meritoriously at home and at regional and global peacekeeping operations from 1960 to date. We know that military operations in the Northeast are not arbitrary but based on the military’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and Rules of Engagement (ROE), among others. Where any proven infraction or criminal act has been committed by any soldier, the law has always taken its course.

“But it is beyond the pale and downright dangerous to accuse a nation’s military, without any verifiable evidence, of massive illegal abortions and infanticide.

“I will like to once again alert the nation to the dangers posed by fake news and disinformation. I have had a reason to speak on this at this forum, when I warned that fake news and disinformation constitute a clear and present danger to the 2023 election. However, fake news and disinformation, if not checked, can also have a negative impact on our nation’s ongoing fight against terrorism,” Mohammed warned.

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