How Ex-Boko Haram Leader, Shekau, Fled Without Pregnant Wife — Army Tells NHRC
The Theater Commander, Operation Hadin Kai (OPHK), Major General Ibrahim Sallau Ali, has narrated before the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, now the deceased leader of the Boko Haram terrorist sect, Abubakar Shekau, abandoned his wives and fled when Nigerian Armed Forces attacked his camp.
The top Army officer who appeared to testify before a panel the Commission constituted to investigate allegations of human rights violations against the Nigerian military, disclosed that one of the wives of the late terrorist leader that was left behind by her husband, was heavily pregnant.
He said the woman was subsequently handed over to government authorities that took care of her needs till she gave birth.
Major General Ali denied the allegation that women were maltreated by soldiers engaged in counter-terrorism operations in the North Eastern part of the country.
He described a report by an international media organization, Reuters, which accused the Nigerian Military of running a secret, systematic and illegal abortion program in the North East region of the country, as false and lacking in credibility.
It will be recalled that the report specifically alleged that the covert abortion program, which it said was backed by the government, had led to the illegal termination of at least 10, 000 pregnancies in the crisis torn states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, since 2013.
Irked by the report, the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Lucky Irabor, had on December 16, 2022, stormed the NHRC, asking it to investigate the allegation.
Following the request, the Commission constituted a seven-man probe panel which is chaired by a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Abdu Aboki.
Meanwhile, the Commission, in a statement it made available to newsmen through its Deputy Director, Public Relations and External Linkages, Hajiya Fatima Agwai Mohammed, revealed that Major Ali testified before the panel which sat in Maiduguri, on behalf of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
According to the statement, responding to questions by the general counsel to the panel, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna, Major General Ali, maintained that the illegal abortion report by the media outlet was “not just possible”.
He said the military was doing its best to restore peace and normalcy in the region.
Major General Ali said before he took over the counter-insurgency operations, terrorist hitherto controlled most things.
Terrorists were in the city, going to various houses and we made sure we arrested them”, he added.
Continuing, the witness said: “When I came on board an officer was shot in the mouth inside Damaturu by the insurgents in an unsuccessful attempt to kill, but he escaped and later on, there was a Bomb blast because the enemy’s vehicle was laden with explosive device”.
He further narrated to the panel, how he was injured by the insurgents on two different occasions.
He said the insurgents who were initially living in the cities with their families, later relocated and occupied the bushes.
On how his team encountered the Boko Haram leader, Major General Ali said: “The military moved against them and neutralized those who wanted to kill us.
“When we attacked them at one point during a clearance operation, the leader, Abubakar Shekau escaped, leaving his wives and we arrested and brought them to the State government lodge.
“One of Shekau’s wives was pregnant at that time and I think she even delivered successfully and I never had the experience of clearance operations targeted at women and children.
“We don’t arrest the women in the cities but rather focus on the men that carried arms against the State”.
On the allegation of massive killing of children on the premise that they were fathered by Boko Haram insurgents, Major General Ali who was formerly the Deputy Director of Logistics at the Army Headquarters, said the military operated with a high sense of professionalism and utmost regard for human life.
He said the military medical facility in Damaturu was not equipped to do surgery, adding that women were often referred to the University of Maiduguri when the need arose.
Similarly, the Borno State Coordinator of Civil Joint Task Force (CJTF), Mr Abba Aji Kalli, in his oral evidence before the panel, said they usually assist the military to navigate through pathways in the communities since they were more familiar with the terrain as indigenes of the state.
According to him, the CJTF members took an oath to remain fair to every member of the public, irrespective of whether they were friendly with them or not.
The CJTF leader told the panel that the military is professionally minded in their operations both on and off the battlefield.
He, therefore, dismissed the report of alleged illegal abortions by the military as false and unfounded.