US urges probe of Nigeria's alleged forced abortion program that has killed over 10K babies
The U.S. State Department is urging the Nigerian government to establish an independent investigation after Reuters reported last week that the Nigerian military is carrying out a secret campaign of forced abortions in its fight against radical terrorist groups.
In a Wednesday statement to The Christian Post, the U.S. Department of State said it is "deeply troubled" by the allegations raised in Reuters' Dec. 7 report suggesting that the Nigerian military has carried out at least 10,000 abortions in the country's northeast as part of a secret campaign since 2013. Witnesses say many women were beaten, drugged or held at gunpoint.
Many women kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants were reportedly forced to undergo abortions. A U.S. State spokesperson said the agency is urging the government of Nigeria to establish an independent investigation into the outlet's findings.
"We have raised the allegations with the Government of Nigeria and continue to seek information," a spokesperson for the department wrote. "We were not aware of this allegation prior to the Reuters story. We are still reviewing the report and will make decisions about next steps thereafter."
The U.S. Embassy in Abuja is seeking information and communicating with Nigerian authorities, the spokesperson added, assuring that the department takes allegations of human rights violations and abuses "very seriously."
"We have encouraged the Government of Nigeria to take the allegations seriously and to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation, and we will continue to do so," the spokesperson said.
According to Reuters, details about the abortion program remain murky due to the "secrecy involved," and it is impossible to know exactly how many abortions were performed.
"Interviews and documents suggest the count could be significantly higher than the tally of at least 10,000 cases that Reuters was able to establish," the report reads. "Patients at times were asked if they wanted an abortion, according to some sources, but Reuters could not determine how many were given a choice."
The Nigerian government rejects the findings of Reuters' investigation, according to a follow-up report Monday. However, Reuters insists that its findings are supported by dozens of witness accounts and documentation.
In the last decade, millions have fled from Nigeria's northeast due to the rise of terror groups like Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province.
Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, a conservative think tank, believes the U.S. has a responsibility to thoroughly evaluate Nigeria's military because it supplies the African country with military equipment.
"The investigation should cover this report of an atrocity against children and the whole pattern of atrocities reported by the churches in the north of the country where the security forces are accused of standing by idly while jihadists carry out massacres of men, women and children and seize their villages and farms," Shea wrote in a Tuesday statement to CP.
The human rights lawyer said the U.S. must pressure Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, who is in Washington this week for the State Department's Africa Leaders Summit, to take action to "stop all the mayhem and the destruction of his country."
Shea said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken failed to do this when he lifted the "country of particular concern" designation for Nigeria last year.
"It had been imposed by Sec Pompeo for Buhari's allowing the jihadis to act with complete impunity against Christian communities, particularly in the north," Shea stated.
"Islamist terrorism is spreading in NIGERIA, including by ISIS, and threatens to turn Africa's largest economy and most populous country into a failed state. This would destabilize most of the continent and would hurt American interests."
"The Biden administration must show leadership to prevent a great catastrophe," she concluded.
According to the United Nations, over 3.1 million people are internally displaced within Nigeria after being forced to flee their homes in the northeast.
Nigeria has also been impacted by violence in its farming-rich Middle Belt states, where thousands have been killed in attacks on predominantly Christian farming communities by radical herdsmen. While advocates have spoken out for years about religious elements involved in the attacks, the Nigerian government has refuted the notion that religion plays a role in the violence it describes as decades-old "farmer-herder" clashes.
As The Christian Post reported last month, the Anambra-based criminologist organization International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law estimates that radicalized herdsmen killed a combined total of at least 4,000 Christians and abducted more than 2,300 others within the first 10 months of 2022.
Other terror groups, including Islamic State in West Africa Province, Boko Haram and Ansaru, accounted for 450 Christian deaths. The Fulani (Zamfara) bandits and their splinter groups were responsible for 370 Christian deaths.
The U.S. State Department left Nigeria off its 2022 list of countries of particular concern for tolerating or engaging in violations of religious freedom, drawing criticism from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. USCIRF has warned that rising violence from non-state actors and "poor governance" in the region had caused religious freedom to deteriorate.
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman