From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, has described as outright nonsense, an investigative report by London-based news agency, Reuters, that “Since at least 2013, the Nigerian military has conducted a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the country’s northeast, ending at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls.”
The report, said many of the women involved in the programme had been kidnapped and raped by terrorists of the Boko Haram extraction.
The report also cited witnesses accounts, that they were “beaten, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance.”
Irabor responding to questions at the 61st Guest of the Ministerial Media Briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday,
According to him, “I’m glad you asked that question. I didn’t think I needed to dignify that report. That’s why I did not mention it. Why?
“I was informed by my officer, the director of Defense Information that he received a mail from Reuters, requesting to have an interview with me. And he gave me a letter written by one Alexandra Xavis, making amour of spurious allegations, many of which have now been published by the same Reuters. “And when I went through, I asked myself, How could a man be so laden with evil, to contemplate the content of which he wants me to respond? I said, he should go back to the person and if he wants to, that he already knows the military, if he wants to answer he should go ahead. But I’m not going to dignify such.
“Because you’re saying that the military since 2013, has been engaged in a planned abortion programme. And that is the military that is running that programme. And then in that letter, he also indicated that is perhaps is part of government design. And that, in that letter, he indicated 12,000 abortions have been conducted. But they have not published yesterday that is 10,000. And then went on and on to say their sources, their sources. And I say which source and of course, there are people who have worked in the northeast.
“So I think, I mean, the problems that we’re contending with, and I should waste my energy for such things.
Again, it falls within the realm of “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” So since that is the position of Reuters, I didn’t think it was necessary for me to, you know, call them up, and then to engage in because that’s is outright nonsense.
Now, on the report, my name was mentioned that at some stage, I was in charge of the operation. Yes, of course, I was. In 2013, I was not in charge, I took leadership of the operation in northeast in 2016. That I did till the later part of 2017, that is close to two years, and the other officers. And so let me even confine myself to the time of my leadership of the north east itself. The allusions they made is news to me.
It never occurred, I never saw anything like that both from the Division of center from Giwa projects down to Maiduguri down to Maimalamari where I lived, where we have Seven Div (Seven Division) hospital that was a major hospital for the treatment of our personnel and their families. And especially the wounded?
“That again, we had unfettered access by all the members of the media, I recall the engagement I had with the media all through and I take them there, to all the wards except of course, the mortuary we’re trying to build at a time. The whole essence of having to have that kind of engagement was to say, look, this war is real. The deaths, and the wounds inflicted on our troops are real. Please go and see because we need you to work with us to be able to make…and I’m glad that it paid off.
“That is why today, in the northeast, sanity, not only as it returned, we have continued to play our path.
“Now of course we’re not unaware that there are extraterritorial elements, who really do not want to have us live in peace. Who really do not want us to move forward. I am also aware that of course, the war economy has affected a good number of people. So that now that we’re making progress, they think that status quo ante, we need to return to it.
“So those inanities by Reuters in any case, he said, we interviewed 33 women over a period of how many years, 2013 till date, and then you were able to conclude, what kind of extrapolation is that? That from 33, we may be able to get 10,000 abortions or be conducted. The reports claim that there are some soldiers, security personnel that were interviewed who they are I don’t know, come on. I think that I will leave it to you to do the interrogation. I’m here. And in many cases, the report also indicated that Reuters, I’m sure one of you, you’re here.
(Turning to the Reuters Correspondent), he said: my brother, were you involved?
“The man is here reporting for Reuters and he was not involved in an investigative journalism? I do not think that he because report did not mention his name. And you have some elements outside the country who were able to interview those within the country. And then they came up with the report?
“Well, again, I’m a Christian. What the Bible tells me is that the heart of man is desperately wicked, who can know it. So I am by this out, I now understand, beyond what I know, why that representation in the scriptures.
“So again, I’m not going to be deterred, and I don’t think that any of my officers or men are deterred. We work as part of the security architecture of our country. And I’m glad my commander in chief, has absolute confidence in what I do and what we do. I believe Nigerians are also giving us the support that is required.
“I think Nigerians are better informed as to the disposition of the Armed Forces relative to the allusions of Reuters for them to take a stand. And to know that certainly the military, the Nigerian armed forces can never be involved in such things.
“So my dear brother, please go tell your friends in Reuters that perhaps they may have to do some more work.
“I’m disappointed to say the least. Because you asked and I’m glad that you asked. What else can I say? It’s not true.”