Inter-faith group puts pressure on Boko Haram to free Leah Sharibu

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*Leah, Buhari

As FG sends delegation to meet with family

Religious leaders, under the aegis of Interfaith Initiative for Peace (IIP), have begun a campaign to put pressure on the Boko Haram insurgents who adducted Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu, to set her free.

Sharibu has been in Boko Haram captivity since February 19, 2018 when the insurgents abducted her and 110 other girls from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe State.

One hundred and five of the students regained freedom on March 21, 2018 through a series of ‘behind-the-scene discussion’ while five were said to have died of asphyxiation on the day of captivity and were given a mass burial.

But Sharibu, the only Christian girl among the captives, was held back by her captors because she refused to renounce her faith.

In a 35-second online audio message r released in August, she pleaded with the federal government to ensure her release from her captors.

“I am Leah Sharibu, the girl that was abducted in GGSS Dapchi.

“I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation.

“I also plead to the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives. Kindly help me out of my predicament.

“I am begging you to treat me with compassion, I am calling on the government, particularly, the president to pity me and get me out of this serious situation. Thank you.”

Speaking on behalf of the group after a conference in Abuja on Friday, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Northern Nigeria, Rev. Yakubu Pam, urged Leah’s abductors to abandon their threat to save the Sharibu family from the agony of losing a child in such a violent circumstance.

“We heard that they said next week is their deadline and that is why in this meeting, as we are discussing about the peace of this country, we felt that it is very important and very paramount to talk about this matter.

“The mother is in agony, the family is in agony and we are appealing to their conscience. Whatever it is, let them be lenient and also allow God to speak to their heart.

“We are here as religious leaders and traditional rulers to appeal to the conscience of the abductors of this innocent girl.

I know, too, that the mother has also cried, the family members have cried to the abductors of this innocent girl, as well as well-meaning citizens of Nigeria have also cried.

“We want to appeal to them, to please, for the sake of God, release this innocent girl and by doing this, Nigeria will appreciate,” he said.

The clergyman also called on the federal government to ensure the girl is safely released and reunited with her family.

Also speaking, the chief imam of Apo Legislative Quarters, Sheikh Mohmamed Khalid, urged the Boko Haram insurgents to fear the Almighty God and release all those in the captivity.

Khalid also urged the sect to embrace peace and also go into dialogue with government by stating their grievances and come up with realistic conditions that would be met in order to have peace in the northeast region of the country.

“Other girls abducted with Leah have been released and Leah is still under captivity and these guys are doing it under the guise of religion. No religion can support the abduction of innocent children, especially the girl-child. We want peace in Nigeria.

“Even though the military is doing a lot of work to stem the activities of the insurgents, their best is not enough and we cannot be satisfied until all Nigerians that are in captivity are released,” said Khalid.”

He said the girl’s abductors have no basis to hold her captive since her colleagues who were taken together with her set free.

Meanwhile, a federal government delegation led by the minister of information and culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, met with Sharibu’s mother, Rebecca on Friday in Dapchi, Borno State and assured the family that the 15-year-old girl who has spent almost eight months in captivity would be released.

Mohammed was accompanied on the visit by the minister of state for industry, trade and investment, who also oversees the women affairs ministry, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar and the minister of state for foreign affairs, Hajiya Abba Ibrahim.

Mohammed said in a statement in Abuja on Saturday, that President Muhammadu Buhari sent the delegation as a follow-up to his phone call to Leah’s mother a few days ago, adding that the government will not rest until Leah has been reunited with her family.

The statement said that students of the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, from where Leah and her colleagues were abducted trooped out to welcome the delegation when the chopper that ferried them to Dapchi landed in the school premises.

At the meeting, which was said to have been held in the Borno State government house, Mohammed reassured them of the government’s efforts to secure the release of the two that remained in captivity, Alice Loksha and Amina Liman.

He also condoled with the parents of the third aid worker, Saifura Hussaini Ahmed, who was killed by her abductors last month.

The minister said “this is a trying time for the government and people of Borno State” but praised the government’s resilience in tackling the challenges arising from the Boko Haram insurgency.

Additional reports from The Guardian and Punch

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