Leah Sharibu was the sole Christian among 110 schoolgirls abducted by the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram from their school in Dapchi, Yobe state on 19 February 2018. While her surviving classmates returned a month later following government negotiations, she was denied her freedom for refusing to convert to Islamic religion as a precondition for her release. Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s assurance to Rebecca Sharibu, mother of Leah to secure her release, the girl is still held in captivity. Till date, there is no update on the plight of indefatigable Christian girl and her whereabouts have remained unknown. It is reproachful that a Nigeria’s daughter is still held hostage and the government appears unconcerned about that tragedy. The word of the President on Leah and the remaining Chibok girls should be his bond. It will be recalled that part of Buhari’s campaign promise on which he won election in 2015 was that he would seperate work for return of the Chibok school girls. The remaining113 Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu are still in Boko Haram’s captivity. They are still our missing daughters! Many Nigerians believe that the Nigerian government and President Buhari is not doing enough, in fact they don’t believe they‘re doing anything. Is the Federal Government looking the other way to securing her release? BARBARA NEGBEJIE seeks the views of a select Nigerians.
‘FG is paying lip service’
“I think the FG is merely paying lip service and lacks the political will to secure her release, just as it is doing with the current security situation in the country. Speculations have continued to run rife of the possibility that the government not showing concern may not be unconnected to her being a Christian. The government should look beyond refuting such claims, but an action in the right direction is needed in securing her release in over 2 years. People need action not promises.”
‘More of lip service than actual action’
“In 2015, Amnesty International said at least 2,000 women and girls had been taken since 2014, with many of them being forced into sexual slavery. This is the story of Leah Sharibu, one of the girls kidnapped in Chibok in 2018 which represents a fraction of the number of people taken by the Boko Haram. Leah was reportedly not released along with the other children, because she refused to convert to Islam. In August 2018 an audio was released of Leah pleading for her freedom. What has been the effort so far in securing her release? Over 5000 Muslims gathered to pray for her release on Thursday, May 16, 2019. However, after spending almost two years in captivity, in January 2020, it was widely reported that Leah had given birth to a baby boy after being forcefully converted to Islam and married off to a Boko Haram commander. There have been reports of the government having negotiations at various levels for her release especially owing to pressure from the international community, however so far, it has all appeared to be more of lip service than actual action. Apparently maybe for some sinister reason best known to them it appears like they are turning a blind eye to securing her freedom.”
‘The entire Christian community irrespective of our denomination should rise and speak with one voice demanding for her release’
The current levels of insecurity in the country are both a disincentive to investment and inimical to development. The federal government turned a blind eye to the release of Miss. Leah Sharibu after it was reported by the released hostages that she’s alive and well, till this day nothing has been said or done by the Buhari administration. It’s been over 2 years since her abduction and nothing has been said about her release. What do you make of this, when the other Muslims abductees have been released while the sole Christian abductee has neither been seen nor heard? One can confidently say it’s a deliberate act on the government and ISWAP. This is a wakeup call to the entire Christian community irrespective of our denominations to rise and speak with one voice demanding for her release.
‘Is the terrorist group too powerful for the Nigerian army to handle?’
“It’s been over two years since Leah Sharibu was abducted alongside other school girls from their secondary school, Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe state. The other girls were released why she was held back for refusing to renounce her faith. Her parents, Nathan and Rebecca Sharibu, different community leaders and even social rights activists have called for her release but all to no avail. Yet on different occasions, we have heard of the Nigerian army attacking and rounding up Boko Haram camps. One would begin to wonder if there are really any efforts on the government’s part to focus and act on getting her released and reuniting a young teenage girl with her family. At different times, the federal government has made promises to rescue Leah from her captors but till date she still remains a captive. Has the government really exhausted all their efforts in ensuring her escape? Is the terrorist group too powerful for the Nigerian army to handle? In view of the delay of action on their part, it looks like the federal government is really not bothered in securing the release of Leah Sharibu. The only way this can be proved otherwise is for Leah to be alive and well and also be reunited with her family.”