Accessibility links

Breaking News

U.S. Lawmaker Wants Nigeria Abortion Probe

FILE: Exclusive interview with Republican senator Jim Risch by VO at the Russell Senate Office building. Taken Wednesday, July 27th, 2022

U.S. Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has requested a review of U.S. security assistance and cooperation programs in Nigeria following Reuters reporting on an illegal abortion program and killing of children carried out by the Nigerian military.

Risch, in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken seen by Reuters, said "I look forward to hearing more about the [Defense] Department's planned response to the serious and abhorrent allegations levied against a long-standing beneficiary of U.S. security assistance and cooperation which, if deemed credible, have done irreparable harm to a generation of Nigerian citizens and to U.S. credibility in the region."

Risch also called for the State Department to examine the potential use of sanctions in addition to an expeditious review of U.S. security assistance and cooperation.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson, asked about Risch's letter, said the United States is still reviewing the Reuters reporting and will then determine next steps.

"Decisions to proceed with the provision of military training and equipment are made on a case-by-case basis and consider a variety of factors, including respect for human rights and adherence to the law of armed conflict," the spokesperson said.

"Our existing defense sales to Nigeria include robust components focused on human rights, preventing civilian harm, and promoting military justice and accountability."

The department vets all Nigerian security force units nominated for applicable training and assistance and does not provide security assistance to a force unit if there is credible information indicating it has committed a gross violation of human rights, the spokesperson added.

A Reuters investigation this month found that since at least 2013, the Nigerian military has conducted a secret, systematic and illegal abortion program in the country’s northeast, ending at least 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls.

Last week, Reuters also reported that the Nigerian Army and allied security forces have slaughtered children during their grueling 13-year war against Islamist extremists in the country’s northeast.

Many had been kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants. Resisters were beaten, held at gunpoint or drugged into compliance, witnesses say.

Nigerian military leaders told Reuters the army has never targeted children for killing. They said that the reporting in the article was an insult to Nigerians and part of a foreign effort to undermine the country’s fight against the insurgents.

Nigeria's military chief on Friday called on the National Human Rights Commission to launch an independent investigation into the illegal abortion program reported by Reuters, according to reports.

The Human Rights Commission had already said it would launch an investigation, according to reports.

Nigeria's information minister was not immediately available to comment on the requested review.