On December 7, 2022, Reuters opened a new can of worms about the Nigerian Army —  the mass abortion programme for victims of Boko Haram.

With the testimony of 33 victims, five health workers and nine security personnel alongside military documents as evidence, there’s a record that the military has managed to abort 10,000 pregnancies among women and girls since 2013.

Investigators found that most of the abortions were conducted without the women’s consent or even their prior knowledge. Some of them got abortion-inducing pills or injections that were supposedly medications to boost their health or combat diseases.

How did the Nigerian Army react? 

As usual, the Nigerian Army didn’t own up to the act and blatantly denied the accusation. The military defense chief, General Lucky Irabor, even mentioned that he’ll “not waste his energy on such things.”

Sadly, this isn’t the first time the military would be accused of heinous crimes. We’ve made a sad list of the various sins of the Nigerian Army since the end of the last military government in 1999.

The unlawful detention and torture of 10,000 people

Amnesty International reported that at least 10,000 victims  — many of them children  — died in military detention and thousands more were arrested from 2009 to 2020 in the Nigerian Army’s fight against terrorists. This mostly happened due to the massive displacement of people who escaped from jihadist groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP).

The Giwa Barracks Detention Centre in Maiduguri is notorious for cramming kids as young as five into overwhelmingly hot, crowded cells. 

The sex-for-food trade

Another Amnesty International report indicted the Nigerian Army of the maltreatment of female victims of the jihadists from 2016 to 2018. Soldiers subjected the women to a horrible trade by barter system — sex or rape for food and other basic amenities. 

Destruction of villages during raids 

In January 2020, the Nigerian Army displaced over 400 people by burning their villages in their search for Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State. This forced many villagers into Internally Displaced Camps (IDP). 

This destructive behaviour isn’t limited to the North. When rioters killed a military commander during a peacekeeping mission in Cross River State in 2022, soldiers retaliated by burning down houses in the community. Their attack caused the death of 10 villagers.

A history of massacres 

The Nigerian Army is regularly involved in the killings and massacres of Nigerians that it’s become a trademark. Here are some of the most gruesome we’ve seen so far:

Odi massacre, 1999

On November 20, 1999, the Nigerian military invaded and killed hundreds of civilians in Odi town in Bayelsa State. President Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly ordered the attack in response to the killing of 12 policemen and an ambush of soldiers by a militia that used Odi as its cover.

Baga massacre, 2013 

On April 16, 2013, 200 civilians were killed and over 2,000 houses were destroyed in Baga, Borno State. The military blamed  Boko Haram insurgents for the massacre. However, Baga residents said angry soldiers raided the town in retaliation for the killing of their colleague. 

Zaria massacre, 2015

On December 12, 2015, the Nigerian Army killed hundreds of Shia Muslims who were members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). The military accused the sect of blocking the path of the then chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai.

More than 300 IMN members died during the military’s crackdown. Soldiers tried to cover up the massacre by burying the bodies in shallow graves. The commanding officer in charge of the operation, Adeniyi Oyebade, and other senior army officers faced a judicial panel’s indictment in 2016. 

Rann bombing, 2017 

On January 17, 2017, a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) jet bombed an IDP camp near the Cameroonian border in Rann, Borno State. 115 people, including six Red Cross aid workers, died and more than 100 people were injured.

Irabor, who ordered the airstrike, called the bombing a “disturbing mistake.” He said he’d ordered the strike on the location due to intel that Boko Haram militants were gathering there. President Buhari’s spokesperson also called it a “regrettable operational mistake.”

Operation Python Dance 2, 2017

According to the Igbo Civil Society Coalition (ICSO), the Nigerian Army killed more than 180 people and injured more than 200 others in the Army’s “Operation Python Dance 2” in 2017.

The Lekki Toll Gate massacre, 2020

On the night of October 20, 2020, members of the Nigerian Army attacked unarmed EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. 

As usual, the Nigerian Army first denied the shooting, and even called viral video evidence “photoshopped”. But officials later admitted to a judicial panel that soldiers deployed to the toll gate had live and blank bullets. Despite the panel’s conclusion that soldiers killed at least 11 protesters, the Nigerian Army refused to take responsibility.



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