Recently, the Nigerian military was accused of systematically conducting illegal abortion operations in the northeast region since 2013. According to the Reuters investigation, over 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls were allegedly aborted, with the program being built on the basis of deception and physical force against women who were detained in military custody for long periods. The report further revealed that women who resisted this program were brutalized and drugged into compliance and although investigations have not yet established those who spearheaded this, it was indicated that this program ran within five military facilities and five civilian hospitals across the region.
As a result of the illegal abortion program and the targeted killings of children and women by the Nigerian military, some members of the United States House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee urged President Joe Biden to consider repealing a near $1 billion arms sale deal with Nigeria. Democrat, Sara Jacobs of California and Republican, Chris Smith of New Jersey, both of who are members of a subcommittee on Africa expressed major concerns over the United States’ policy on military support to Nigeria. They also endorsed the need for a security assistance and cooperation program review in Nigeria, as well as a risk assessment of casualties resulting from the arms assistance.
Assistance provided by U.S. has not been sufficient to curb insurgency.
The United States was known to have helped Nigeria with security assistance and trainings focused on the compliance with the International law. However, these lawmakers indicated that humanitarian workers have repeatedly reported Nigeria’s security forces’ lack of understanding of humanitarian law and tools for effective engagement. The Congress members noted that the provided assistance by the United States has not been totally sufficient in curbing the conflict between Nigeria’s military and Islamist insurgents in the northeast region of the country. They added that there were also reports of captured weapons by the insurgents.
In a letter sent to the United States’ President and Congress members, stated that it would be highly inappropriate for the country to proceed with the arms deal and therefore, urged the president to overturn it. However, the White House is yet to provide a comment on this recent development. The U.S. State Department in April, approved the sale of weapons and other military equipment to Nigeria, with the deal being the biggest ever offered to the country. This was after the lawmakers pushed the deal majorly due to the concerns of human rights abuses in Nigeria.
Illegal abortion in northeast Nigeria can face about 14 years imprisonment.
Importantly, this review request is the second from the Congress in recent months. After the Reuters news in December, a United States Senator and top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch demanded that the security assistance and cooperation program in Nigeria be reviewed, as well as the potential use of sanction for alleged abuses. The Idaho senator promptly indicated that he was looking forward to the department’s response to the allegations against Nigeria, which if deemed credible, would have done immense damage to a generation of Nigerian citizens.
Abortion has been deemed illegal in Nigeria, except for critical cases where the mother’s life is threatened and in the north region of the county, illegal termination of pregnancy attracts 14 years imprisonment. However, the existence of this program was blatantly denied by the Nigerian military, insisting that the Reuters investigation was a foreign move to undermine the county’s efforts at curbing the ravaging insurgency. The Nigerian army regarded the investigation as a body of insult on the Nigerian people and culture.
Nigerian military accused of slaughtering children during crisis.
Reuters in its investigation, also reported that the Nigerian security forces had indulged in slaughtering children during the crisis against Islamist extremists in the northeastern region of the country. Although the military leaders denied any this claim, the Reuters’ series, “Nightmare in Nigeria” swiftly led to urgent calls from the United States’ department of state and defense to the Nigerian government to investigate the allegations. The German foreign ministry, United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also demanded due investigation. In midst of these international appeal, Nigeria’s defense ministry agreed to fully cooperate in investigating these allegations.