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365 days and counting… Leah Sharibu still a captive

West & Central Africa

365 days and counting… Leah Sharibu still a captive

Leah Sharibu, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, is now one year in the captivity of the radical Islamic jihadi sect, Boko Haram, and her parents are worried over the Nigerian government’s inability to secure her release over one year after her kidnap.

Leah was abducted on the February 19 with 115 other schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State north eastern Nigeria and when the government negotiated and paid the terrorist sect to release the girls Leah was retained by the terrorists, according to her classmates, because she refused to convert to Islam.

Leah Sharibu picture courtesy Parents

Leah’s mother, speaking through a family friend, Gloria Puldu, senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Jos, said“we are not in a position to evaluate what the government has done or not done. All the family is asking for is Leah’s release. Let the government keep to its promise. We want Leah back home just like the other girls from her school who were with her in captivity were set free. She should also be set free from Boko Haram.” Gloria lamented that the only communication from government, months later, was when the family “just saw on TV, (after we held the press conference on February 10) the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, saying Leah was not dead but ‘absolutely alive’ and that was all we heard,” Gloria said 

“She is still a young girl and all of us have children in our homes. You can imagine my situation since then,” Nathan Sharibu, Leah’s father said in an interview. “The Federal Government assured me that this administration would do its best to rescue my daughter. Besides that, President Muhammadu Buhari sent two ministers to my house in Dapchi, Yobe State to assure us that all that she would return home safely.” But since then there has been nothing but silence from the government, Nathan said. The only organizations that sowed any concern “about the development are only the churches and Muslims that are trying their possible best” to pressure the government, he said.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in a statementthrough the Special Assistant on Media & Communications, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said “It is reprehensible, wicked, ungodly and condemnable that this innocent girl is being persecuted because of her faith. Every opportunity CAN leadership had to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari is being used to prevail on his government to get her released. There were even two occasions when the terrorists reportedly signaled their readiness to release Leah, if the government is ready to pay her ransom, but there was nothing being done in this regard,” Oladeji said.

Al Barnawi sect of Boko Haram responsible for Kidnap of Dapchi Schoolgirls- Picture Screen grab: Boko Haram Propaganda video

Oladeji wondered why “All (other 105 girls) were said to be set free on the payment of the ransom” but the government is refusing to pay to set Leah free “though this payment (of ransom) was denied (by government)… And even if no kobo was paid and now the terrorists are willing to negotiate, what sacrifice is too much to get her free?” The Christian Association said. “We once again call on the government and all security agencies to wake up from their slumber. A government that cannot protect the citizens is a failed government,” the statementsaid.

The Boko Haram radical Islamic terrorist group has kidnapped hundreds of women who are used as sex slaves, wives and domestic servants. Hundreds of young men have also been used as fighters for the Islamic cause of establishing an Islamic Caliphate in Nigeria under a Sharia law. Among those still in captivity are over 100 Chibok schoolgirls whose fate is still unknown and hundreds of women abducted in many rural communities.

Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and protest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos. Cover Picture: Khataza Gondwe

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