December 03, (THEWILL) – The Defence Headquarters (DHQ), Abuja, has accused Reuters, a British international news agency, of attempt to blackmail the Nigerian military through what it described as “mercenary journalism”.
A statement issued by the Director, Defence Information (DDI), Maj Gen Jimmy Akpor, debunked reports by Reuters, that the military was involved in the abortion of pregnancies of wives of insurgents in the North-East.
Maj Gen Akpor said the allegations smacked of wickedness in view of the military’s role in the restoration of democracy in Liberia, Sierra Leone, among other peace-keeping operations across the globe without any such record.
Akpor said the news outlet wrote that it was working on a series of stories about purported actions of the Nigerian military during the government’s 13-year war against Islamist insurgents in Nigeria’s North-East.
He said: “The supposed stories were purported to focus on two specific areas: first, supposed military-run programme of forced abortions performed on women and girls who were held captive and impregnated by Islamist militants and second, a supposed killing of children by the military as part of counterinsurgency operations.
“The Reuters report was to also allege that, since 2013, Nigeria’s military had run a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the country’s North-East, terminating at least 12,000 pregnancies among women and girls.
“That many children were shot, poisoned, suffocated or run down by vehicles in army-led actions. Furthermore, the report was to allege that soldiers selected babies and toddlers for killing after rescuing them and their mothers from Islamist militants, amongst other weighty concocted allegations.
“The key motive for supposedly carrying out the abortions was allegedly the notion that the children of Islamist militants, because of the blood in their veins, would one day follow in their father’s footsteps and take up arm against the Nigerian Government and society.
“Let us analyse the period from July 2021 to November 2022. A total of 82,064 Boko Haram fighters with members of their families have surrendered to troops of Op HADIN KAI. Out of this number, 16,553 were active male fighters, 24,446 were women while 41,065 were children.
“The Borno State government is camping and accommodating them family-by-family, as per households, without having to separate the children from their parents. In the same camp are thousands of pregnant women and nursing mothers.
“A total of 262 babies were born within a period of 4 months (94 in July, 98 in August, 60 in September and 11 in October 2022). This figure comprises 150 female and 112 male children. The children were neither aborted nor yanked from their mothers and killed, as may have been the joy of Reuters.
“Let us now spotlight the rescued Chibok girls, who were kidnapped from their school by Boko Haram Terrorists in 2014. A total of 11 of the Chibok girls were rescued this year, 2022. Hauwa Joseph with her child, Mary Dauda with her child, and Ruth Bitrus, were rescued in June 2022. Troops also rescued Kauna Luka with her child and Hanatu Musa, with her 2 children in July 2022.
“In the same vein, Aisha Grema with her four-year-old child and Falmata Lawal, were rescued in August 2022. Furthermore, Asabe Ali with her child, Jinkai Yama with her 3 children, Yana Pogu with her 4 children and Rejoice Senki with her 2 children, were rescued in September and November this year.
“The names of the rescued girls are in Serials 18, 46, 41, 38, 7, 11, 3, 12, 20, 19 and 70 respectively (in the order of rescue) in the list of the abducted Chibok School girls. The rescued girls were handed over to the Borno State government after their rescue.”
Defence Headquarters maintained that a visit to the rehabilitation centre accommodating the Chibok girls on 29 November 2022 revealed that there were two other Chibok girls (with their children)rescued earlier, bringing the number of the Chibok girls in the centre to 13.
“Other residents in the facility were children, who were rescued by troops unaccompanied (by any adult) or who separated from their parents/relatives due to fog of war.
“The welfare of the Chibok girls with their children and the unaccompanied children, is a major priority of the Borno State Government.
“The Joint Investigation Centre (JIC) is where captured terrorists (men and women) are being processed, to determine their level of complicity in the heinous crimes committed by the Boko Haram Terrorist group. There were 1,952 persons in the facility, which included 23 women with 11 children, who remain attached to their mothers as at 30 November 2022.
“There is also a medical facility being run by the Centre in collaboration with medical staff of ICRC. The welfare of all the occupants at the JIC is thus highly prioritised, including basic education for the children, tailoring and hat-making skills acquisition for the adults as well as provision of recreational and sporting facilities for all the occupants.
“Since July 2021, when the Boko Haram terrorists started surrendering with their families in droves, a community-based reintegration process is evolving, involving local traditional leaderships, town councils and family members.
“The process is made easier due to the fact that most of the surrendered terrorists were actually conscripted from their villages by the core terrorists, whose ranks have been degraded by more than 95 percent. “Accordingly, a total of 4,933 rescued civilians/surrendered persons (including 1,977 children, 1,423 women and 1,533 men) have been reintegrated with their communities from the camp housing the Chibok girls alone. The children were not taken from their parents and killed; unaccompanied ones were not also rounded up and killed.
“The Reuters’ series of stories are akin to telling the world that Nigerians still live on top of trees. It now seems that the new stock in trade for Reuters is ‘mining’ and selling lies to demonise Nigerian military, Nigerian institutions and Nigerian leaderships.
“This new vocation of Reuters is worse than illegal arms trade, worse than hard-drug trafficking, and actually worse than terrorism.”