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Nigeria sets up panel to investigate Reuters report on secret abortion by military

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Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has appointed a special panel whose role will include investigating a Reuters report that the military ran a secret abortion programme in its fight against Islamist insurgents in the northeast.

The Nigerian military said it would not carry out an investigation because the report was not true.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which is appointed by the government, said in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday that it would launch the special panel next week in Abuja.

“The National Human Rights Commission will on Tuesday (7th February 2023) inaugurate a Special Independent Investigative Panel on human rights violations in the implementation of counterinsurgency operations in the northeast,” NHRC said.

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“The panel will, among other things focus on investigating Reuters report which alleged that Nigerian Military was involved in abortion of many pregnancies in the North East in the last 10 years,” NHRC said.

The seven-member panel will be chaired by retired Supreme Court judge Abdu Aboki and includes a retired major general, a representative from the Nigerian Bar Association and an expert in obstetrics and gynaecology, NHRC said.

It was not immediately clear how long the investigation would last and what the panel would do with its findings. NHCR has no powers to prosecute human rights violators but can recommend prosecution for offenders.

An NHRC spokesperson did not respond to calls and messages sent to their mobile phone seeking further details.

Reuters reported in December, based on dozens of witness accounts and documentation, that the military abortion programme involved terminating at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls, many of whom had been kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants.

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