The Defence Headquarters (DHQ), Abuja, has accused Reuters, a British international news agency, of attempt to blackmail the Nigerian military through what it described as “mercenary journalism”.
The Director, Defence Information, Jimmy Akpor, disclosed this in a statement on Saturday in Abuja.
Mr Akpor said the news outlet wrote that it was working on a series of stories about purported actions of the Nigerian military during the government’s 13-year war against Islamist insurgents in Nigeria’s North-east.
He said that Reuters had indicated to work on supposed stories that were purported to focus on supposed military-run programme of forced abortions performed on women and girls who were held captive and impregnated by Islamist militants.
The second, according to him, is a supposed killing of children by the military as part of counterinsurgency operations.
The Defence spokesman said that the Reuters report was to also allege that since 2013 Nigeria’s military had run a secret, systematic and illegal abortion programme in the country’s North-east terminating at least 12,000 pregnancies among women and girls.
According to him, Reuters also alleged that many children were shot, poisoned, suffocated or run down by vehicles in army-led actions.
He added that the report was to allege that soldiers selected babies and toddlers for killing after rescuing them and their mothers from Islamist militants, amongst other weighty concocted allegations.
Mr Akpor said that news outlet further alleged that the key motive for supposedly carrying out the abortions was allegedly the notion that the children of Islamist militants, because of the blood in their veins, would one day follow in their father’s footsteps and take up arms against the Nigerian government and society.
Reacting to these allegations, the two-star general said “wickedness really runs in the veins of some people and it surely runs deep in the veins of the Reuters team that concocted such evil for interrogation”.
According to him, the fictitious series of stories actually constitute a body of insults on the Nigerian people and culture for no people or culture in Nigeria practices such evil as dreamt up by the Reuters team.
“Irrespective of the security challenges we face as a nation, Nigerian peoples and cultures still cherish life.
“Hence, Nigerian military personnel have been raised, bred and further trained to protect lives, even at their own risk especially, when it concerns the lives of children, women and the elderly.
“This much is reflected in Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs), Concepts of Operations, Rules of Engagements (ROEs) and other documents that guide military operations.
“Hence, nowhere has the Nigerian military operated – Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, [Darfur] Sudan, Gambia and Guinea Bissau, amongst others — that there was any trace or allegation of infanticide.
“The Nigerian military will not, therefore, contemplate such evil of running a systematic and illegal abortion programme anywhere and anytime and surely not on our own soil.
“The Nigerian military will not also deliberately plan to target children during its counterinsurgency operations or other operations, both within and outside Nigeria,” he said.
The defence spokesman said that Reuters team must have been schooled in and have now become proponents of scorched-earth and inhuman policies employed by colonialists during the colonial era and during the battles for independence in Indo-China, Malaysia, Algeria and other places.
According to Mr Akpor, under the scorched-earth policies of the colonialists, villages and crops were burnt, children, women, elderly, the innocent were killed in systematic and inhuman programmes.
He said that Nigerians, and by extension Nigerian military, were not made in such wicked mold, adding that the Reuters team could not appropriate the evil of infanticide to the Nigerian military and the Nigerian peoples.
“It took Reuters 13 solid years to craft an allegation of infanticide against the Nigerian military and the Nigerian nation.
“This shows that a news agency as ‘renowned’ as Reuters is itself complicit for failing in its mandate to draw attention, to inform the public about supposed occurrences that offend not only the laws of armed conflict but also international humanitarian law,” he said.
The defence spokesman said a total of 82,064 Boko Haram fighters with members of their families had surrendered to troops of Operation Hadin Kai from July 2021 till date.
He said 16,553 out of this number were active male fighters, 24,446 were women while 41,065 were children, saying the Borno Government provided camps for them family-by-family without having to separate the children from their parents.
“In the same camp are thousands of pregnant women and nursing mothers. A total of 262 babies were born within a period of four months (94 in July, 98 in August, 60 in September and 11 in October 2022.
“This figure comprises 150 female and 112 male children. The children were neither aborted nor yanked from their mothers and killed, as may have been the joy of Reuters.
“Let us now spotlight the rescued Chibok girls who were kidnapped from their school by Boko Haram terrorists in 2014. A total of 11 of the Chibok girls were rescued this year 2022.
“Hauwa Joseph with her child, Mary Dauda with her child, and Ruth Bitrus were rescued in June 2022. Troops also rescued Kauna Luka with her child and Hanatu Musa with her two children in July 2022. In the same vein, Aisha Grema with her four-year-old child and Falmata Lawal were rescued in August 2022. Furthermore, Asabe Ali with her child, Jinkai Yama with her three children, Yana Pogu with her four children and Rejoice Senki with her two children were rescued in September and November this year.
“The names of the rescued girls are in Serials 18, 46, 41, 38, 7, 11, 3, 12, 20, 19 and 70 respectively (in the order of rescue) in the list of the abducted Chibok School girls.
“The rescued girls were handed over to the Borno State government after their rescue.
A visit to the Rehabilitation Centre accommodating the Chibok girls on Nov. 29, 2022 revealed that there were two other Chibok girls (with their children) rescued earlier, making the number of the Chibok girls in the centre to be 13.
“Other residents in the facility were children who were rescued by troops unaccompanied (by any adult) or who separated from their parents and relatives due to the fog of war.
The welfare of the Chibok girls with their children and the unaccompanied children is a major priority of the Borno Government.
UNICEF is assisting the centre in tracing the relatives of the Chibok girls, as well as those of the unaccompanied/separated children to facilitate reintegration with their communities.
“If there was any evil, illegal programme to systematically kill the children of Boko Haram terrorists, then the children that the terrorists begat through the Chibok girls would have been prime targets,” he said.
Akpor said the crucial point to note was the fact that, more than 245 UN agencies, International NGOs and local NGOs operate in the North-East, who were active in the IDP camps and in other concentrations of vulnerable people.
According to him, they provide food, medical care and other services in collaboration with the Federal and Borno State Governments but the wickedness of the Reuters team members must have blinded them, shutting them off from the humanitarian realities in the North-East of Nigeria.
“The Reuters condemnable series of stories can only have arisen from a mentality of “media or press-bullying”. Reuters is a media company with worldwide reach that sells news to print, electronic and online media outlets.
“The so-called News Editor for Sub-Saharan Africa, Alexandra Zavis, remains in South Africa and concoct evil lies to insult Nigerian peoples and cultures with allegations of infanticide purportedly being sponsored and carried out by the military and civilian leaderships in North-East of Nigeria.
“The Reuters’ series of stories are akin to telling the world that Nigerians still live on top of trees.
“It now seems that the new stock in trade for Reuters is, ‘mining’ and selling lies to demonise Nigerian military, Nigerian institutions and Nigerian leaderships.
“This new vocation of Reuters is worse than illegal arms trade, worse than hard drug trafficking and actually worse than terrorism.
“The so-called Reuters’ News Editor for Sub-Saharan Africa, Alexandra Zavis, should better retrace her steps, before the founder, Paul Julius Reuter, starts to regret the demonic journalism being practised by the journalists that he left behind,” he added.