Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya, has challenged Reuters to present evidence to support its assertion that the Military Forces have aborted 10,000 pregnancies, massacred children, and committed other Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes.
The chief of staff made the challenge while appearing before the Special Independent Investigation Panel on Human Rights Violations in Counterinsurgency Operations in the North East, saying that Reuters seemed to be following a script to discredit victories in the region.
Referring to the Reuters report, he stated, “Some people are gifted in writing like novelists, depicting events they have never observed, forgetting that in the military, wasting ammo will result in court-martial.” We are a professional army, not a mercenary army.”
He said, “We are successful, but not everyone is pleased with our success; since they cannot reverse it, they disregard it.
“Occasionally, they are performing someone else’s script. We are trained to be professionals and our training is ongoing; we are not Boko Haram militants.
He added, “Maybe they are unaware that we operate under the government. The National Human Rights Commission monitors what the military does, and what we do is an internal operation; we operate within our nation. The Army is the Nigerian Army, and we do not operate without a code of conduct like Boko Haram.”
According to the former commander of the 29 Task Force Brigade, the Nigerian Army is primarily concerned with fighting the insurgency and restoring peace to the North East, and therefore could not have abandoned this noble cause in order to abort 10,000 pregnancies.
“Additionally, it is drilled into our heads that the people you are fighting are Nigerians; however, there is no such policy; rather, the policy we have is respect for human beings; we are not more Nigerian than the people; therefore, in the Nigerian Army, the allegation is merely grammar; our mission is to defeat the insurgents.”
Further testifying before the seven-member panel chaired by Justice Abdu Aboki (ret. ), the witness stated that while the military is purchasing arms to combat insurgents, one would have expected Reuters to support these efforts rather than adopting a “textbook solution” that does not reflect the reality of the situation in the North East.
When asked by the panel’s secretary, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna, to explain Reuters’ claim that soldiers massacred a large number of children believed to have been fathered by Boko Haram, he responded, “This is laughable, because even if there is stigma attached to such children, is it the Army’s responsibility to eliminate the stigma?”