The Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor has called on the National Human Rights Commission to launch an independent investigation into the allegation by Reuters of an illegal abortion programme by the military.
Mr Irabor made the call when he led principal staff officers of the Defence Headquarters on a visit to the Executive Secretary of the commission, Tony Ojukwu on Friday in Abuja.
Reuters had alleged in a report that Nigeria’s military run a secret abortion programme in the country’s North East, terminating at least 10,000 pregnancies since 2013.
Mr Irabor insisted that the allegation by Reuters was baseless and false, adding that the military had nothing to hide hence the need for an independent investigation to exonerate itself.
He said there was need for the commission to carry out such an investigation in line with its responsibilities.
According to him, the armed forces as an establishment of the Federal Republic is bound by the Nigerian constitution to operate based on local and international laws.
This, he added, includes international humanitarian laws and laws of armed conflicts as domesticated in Nigeria.
“And recognizing the place of the National Human Rights Commission and ensuring that all the activities of government and all its citizens and of course, inhabitants, including friends of Nigeria who are within our space conduct their affairs in line with the laws of the land.
“In recent times, there have been reports which alluded that the armed forces is involved in the government programme of abortions in the northeast of Nigeria since 2013.
“And that report was published by Reuters and of course when we looked at it, we felt this is certainly not us and it does not indeed represent the professional standing of the armed forces of Nigeria.
“Where we have footprints of operations in line with the dictates of the constitution.
“We felt that perhaps there are some extra-territorial powers that want to weaken the strength of the armed forces being at the forefront of the current engagements that seek to bring peace to our land.
“And so some actions need to be taken but, of course, being bound by law, being guided by laws, we’ve taken a look and we felt that the right establishment that should undertake investigation is the National Human Rights Commission.
“So it is in that light that I have come to formally inform you if perhaps you are not thinking about it that we as an armed force stand ready for any investigation, and I think, in this case, the NHRC stands a good ground to carry out an investigation,” he said.
Mr Irabor assured the commission that the military would grant it unfettered access to all its establishments across the country.
He also gave assurance that the personnel of the armed forces would be available to answer questions in the course of the investigation.
“We are doing this because we believe we have remained very transparent in our personal engagements and so we have nothing to fear.
“We have also indicated before now that the report is evil.
“We felt that since we are the crux of the allegation it is necessary for us to give you that assurance that we stand ready for you to carry out that investigation,” the CDS emphasised.
Responding, the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Mr Ojukwu said the commission was established under the law to deal with all matters relating to human rights protection, promotion and enforcement in Nigeria.
He said the request of the CDS was in line with the determination of the commission to investigate the allegations because of its human rights implications.
“As you may be aware, the investigation process of the Commission must meet the International Human Rights standard required for this kind of investigation.
He said that the investigation will be public and open, transparent, and in accord with principle of fair hearing.
Mr Ojukwu added that it will ensure accountability, non-discrimination and accommodate variety of interest.
“As we look forward to announcing further steps in the near future towards the constitution of the Panel of Investigation into the Reuters Report, please accept the warm regards of the National Human Rights Commission,” he said.