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    Army ready for probe over alleged aborted pregnancies – Irabor

    The National Human Rights Commission should investigate the allegations that the Nigerian Army had been running a secret abortion programme since at least 2013 for which about 10,000 pregnancies have been aborted, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, demanded on Friday.

    The demand came barely 24 hours after a coalition of over 228 women’s rights organisations under the aegis of Womanifesto requested an investigation of the reported forced abortion of at least 10,000 pregnancies among rescued women and girls.

    The convener of Womanifesto and Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Cenyltre, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, in a statement issued in Abuja called on the Federal Government to institute a panel of inquiry.

     

    She also said the government should take immediate steps to save other young women from being further victims of illegal and illegitimate abortion anywhere in the country.

    According to Reuters, 10,000 women and girls were said to have been raped by the Boko Haram Islamic group and the pregnancies were allegedly aborted by the Nigerian military.

    But the CDS during a courtesy visit to the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Tony Ojukwu (SAN) in Abuja, denied the involvement of Nigerian soldiers in such an act, saying the Army was ready for investigation.

    Irabor said, “We have taken a look and felt that the right establishment that should undertake an investigation into it is the NHRC.

    “When you look at it, you felt that this certainly is not us and it does not represent the professional standing of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.”

    He said such an act, as reported by Reuters does not reflect the professional engagement of the Nigerian Army, not just in the North East but, across the length and breadth of the country where the Army has a footprint of operation in line with the dictates of the constitution.

    “At first, we felt there are some extra-territorial powers that want to whittle the strength of the Armed Forces being at the war front in a current engagement that seeks to bring peace into our land and so, some action needs to be taken”, he said.

    According to him, the NHRC, as an agency of government that ensures that the fundamental human rights of Nigerians were not violated should investigate the allegations against the Armed Forces of Nigeria by Reuters.

    “It is in that light that I have come to formally inform you if perhaps, you are not thinking about it”, he said and assured the commission of the cooperation of the Armed Forces in the course of the investigation

    The CDS said, “I assure you of unfettered access, we will grant you access to all our establishments across the country.

    “Our door is open to you as you so desire in the course of any investigation you may want to conduct. I am also assuring you that if you require to invite any of our officers, they will be available for you to also ask them questions that you think will be appropriate in the light of the allegations that have been given.

    “We are doing this because we remain very transparent in our official engagement and we have nothing to fear.”

    Irabor said the Armed Forces of Nigeria has codified its various operational rules and regulations as well as rules of engagement according to international humanitarian laws and other relevant laws that were captured.

    The CDS said the Armed Forces, over the years, have observed the very crucial roles of the NHRC and the contributions that it is making towards ensuring that the military lives within the bounds of the laws of the land.

    Ojukwu, in his response, said the request of the Defence Chief was in line with the determination of the NHRC to investigate the allegations in the Reuters report because of the human rights implications in it.

    He told his guest that the investigation process of the commission must meet the international human rights standards required for the kind of investigation being requested by Irabor.

    He said the investigation must be public, transparent, accord with the principle of fair hearing, accountability, and non-discrimination and that the panel must accommodate veracity of interest.

    Ojukwu said the commission would soon announce further steps towards the constitution of the panel of investigation into the Reuters report.

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