Mrs Rebecca Sharibu, the mother of one of the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorists from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC) in Dapchi, Yobe State has prayed for the safe return of her daughter.
Leah was just 15 years when she was taken hostage by Boko Haram insurgents in Yobe State alongside other girls in February 2018.
While others have regained their freedom, she is still in Boko Haram’s captivity for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.
Friday marks her 18th birthday and her mum, Rebecca is renewing calls on the Federal Government to release Leah, four years after.
“What I have to say to the government is that I want the President to fulfil his promise about the return of Leah, especially those praying for Leah. I pray that God should strengthen them.
“The fact that the whole world is praying for the return of Leah is why I am hopeful that one day as God pleases, Leah will return.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had on February 19, 2020, promised that his administration would secure would ensure the release of all persons currently in the captivity of Boko Haram and other terror groups across the country and beyond.
The President stated this in a message he personally signed as part of activities marking the second anniversary of the abduction of 110 students of Government Girls’ Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.
On Monday, February 19, 2018, Boko Haram militants invaded Government Girls’ Science and Technical College in Dapchi, a town in Yobe state.
An Islamic studies teacher at the school, Mohammed Bilal, said the militants arrived about 5:30 p.m.
“The girls were in dorms and I was in my dorm when we heard gunshots and screaming,” he said. “I didn’t see where they were coming from.”
The militants, who have contributed to terrorising the country for more than a decade, went on to abduct more than a 100 schoolgirls. But the truth didn’t surface immediately.
The initial report from the Nigerian police, the following Tuesday, was that only three persons had been abducted. But on Wednesday, family members of the missing girls started to speak to reporters and the true, ugly picture began to emerge. That same day, the Yobe government released a statement saying over 50 students were unaccounted for.
“Out of the 926 students in the school, over 50 are still unaccounted for as of the time of this statement,” the state government said at the time.
The state government also said the military had rescued some girls and President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the military to find the girls during a Federal Executive Meeting.
The issue quickly took on political colouration as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, put out a statement describing the abduction as “shocking” and accused the Federal Government of “deceiving the people”.
On Thursday, media celebrities started to weigh in. Actress, Etomi Adesua, asked Nigerians to pray for the girl’s safe return. The then Governor of Ekiti, Ayodele Fayose, also asked the Federal Government to stop lying to Nigerians about the issue. The Senate asked the Federal Government to intensify its efforts.
Meanwhile, the Yobe state government retracted its statement that some girls had been rescued. “We have now established that the information we relied on to make the statement was not credible,” they said.
On Friday, the Federal Government said it would need more time to address the situation and bring back the girls.
By Saturday, parents of some of the abducted schoolgirls had formed an association to demand the rescue of their children. At this point, it was still unclear how many schoolchildren had been abducted, but the association put the number at 105.
On Sunday, six days after the militants had carried out their operation, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, confirmed that 110 students had been abducted by the insurgents.
Amid calls from civil society and international pressure, the country’s security machinery swung into action. By March 8, the Nigeria Police said it had deployed its Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations, Habila Joshak, to Yobe state as part of efforts to rescue the girls.
On March 14, President Buhari visited Dapchi.“I have no doubt that the Dapchi girls will be rescued or released,” he said.
On March 20, human rights group, Amnesty International accused the Nigerian military of failing to prevent the Dapchi abduction despite being warned ahead. But the military shot back, saying the group isn’t credible.
On March 21, the majority of the girls were returned to Dapchi but one was notably missing – 14-year-old, Leah Sharibu. According to reports, Sharibu, a Christian, wasn’t released with the others because she refused to convert to Islam.
“The Buhari administration will not relent in efforts to bring Leah Sharibu safely back home to her parents as it has done for the other girls after she was held back by the terrorists over her decision, as reported, not to convert from Christianity to Islam,” presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said in a statement, a day after the majority of the girls were released.
Less than three days later, the then Inspector-General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, said Sharibu was on her way back. “I am supposed to go to Dapchi today, let me be sincere with you but because of the girl (Leah Sharibu) that I learnt here will be released today,” he said. But the Police soon put out a statement, saying the IGP had been misunderstood. Sharibu’s stay with the insurgents wasn’t ending soon.
Over the next few months, many, including her parents, civil society, the Christian Association of Nigeria, called for the Federal Government to intensify its efforts to free Sharibu. The government, too, reiterated that it would not relent on securing her release.
In August 2018, Sharibu, now 15-year-old, was heard in an audio clip pleading with President Buhari to help her regain freedom from her captors. “I am begging you to treat me with compassion,” she said.
In the early aftermath of the audio release, presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, while responding to a question about when Nigerians should expect Sharibu back, said only God could answer the question.“The Government is working on and at it, and we believe she will be back,” he said.
In February 2019, almost one year after she was captured, the Federal Government was prompted to condemn reports that Sharibu had died in the hands of the terrorists.
In January 2020, reports, unconfirmed by Channels Television, surfaced that Sharibu had been married off to a Boko Haram commander and delivered a baby. Nathan, Sharibu’s father, declined to comment on the report.
Last Wednesday marked two years since the abduction took place. On Tuesday, Buhari said his government will continue to seek her release.
“This government continues and seeks to secure the release of all children and captives of terrorists – and we do so regardless of their creed or the name of their creator,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sharibu’s father, Nathan, has criticised the Nigerian government for its inability to bring home his daughter.
“It is due to their lapses that my daughter is spending two years in captivity, and there is no assurance up till now,” he told Channels Television recently.
But he is still hopeful President Buhari will come good on his promise.
“I am 100 percent assured that my daughter is still alive and one day, she will come home safely.”
Leah was one of more than 100 schoolgirls that Boko Haram abducted on February 19, 2018, from the Government Girls Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe State. Weeks after the shocking abduction, the terrorists released the other girls, but they kept Leah in captivity for refusing to renounce her faith.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday commemorated the abduction of Leah Sharibu, the remaining Dapchi schoolgirl in captivity.
Two years since the teenager was abducted by a faction of the Boko Haram sect – Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), the President said the Federal Government has redoubled its effort towards her freedom.
In a statement personally signed by him, President Buhari regretted that Leah has remained in the custody of the terrorists because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.
He stressed that Nigerians have the right to practice any religion of their choice and nobody has the power to force another to change their faith against their will.
The President, however, gave an assurance that his administration would continue to work to ensure that Leah, as well as other children and captives of terrorists, regain their freedom.
He added that the government would ensure this was done without discriminating against any religion or ethnic group.
On February 19, 2018, some insurgents stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe State and abducted Leah and about 100 other girls.
Weeks after the kidnap, the other girls were released while Leah was kept in captivity by the terrorists for refusing to renounce her faith.
Six months later, an audio clip emerged in which the abducted schoolgirl pleaded with President Buhari to help her regain freedom.
In the clip, Leah also sought help for her family and asked the government to treat her case with passion.
Last year, Leah’s family and the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign group commemorated her first year in the insurgent’s custody and called on the government to secure her release.
Read President Buhari’s Message below:
WE’LL CONTINUE TO SEEK AND SECURE RELEASE OF ALL CHILDREN AND CAPTIVES OF TERRORISTS – PRESIDENT BUHARI
On the second anniversary of Dapchi, Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria makes the following statement:
Two years ago, 110 innocent children from the town of Dapchi were taken, against their will, by the terrorists of Boko Haram. 107 survived the ordeal. Today all but one – Leah Sharibu – are returned to their families.
Now aged 16, Leah remains in the hands of the terrorists – they say because she refuses to renounce her Christian faith.
We say, as the government for and of all Nigerians, that no person has the right to force another to change their faith against their will and that all life is sacred.
This government continues and seeks to secure the release of all children and captives of terrorists – and we do so regardless of their creed or the name of their creator.
As we redouble our efforts for Leah’s return, we can never allow the terrorists to divide us – Christian against Muslim, Muslim against Christian. We are all Sons of Abraham. And all Nigerians have the same worth and rights before the law, and before God.
The father of Leah Sharibu, Nathan, has criticised the Nigerian government for the continued ordeal of his daughter in captivity of the insurgents.
Leah is the only Dapchi girl left in the custody of the factional Boko Haram group – Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), since her abduction in February 2018.
“It is due to their lapses that my daughter is spending two years in captivity, and there is no assurance up till now,” Nathan told Channels Television in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
The insurgents had stormed the Government Girls Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe State and abducted Leah and about 100 other girls on February 19, 2018.
Weeks after the abduction, the other girls were released while Leah was kept in captivity for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.
Amid calls for her release by various groups and individuals, an audio clip emerged in August 2018 in which the abducted schoolgirl pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to help her regain freedom.
An Emotional Plea
In commemoration of her two years in captivity, emotional Nathan pleaded with the President to fulfil his promise of ensuring that Leah regained her freedom.
He said, “I have a special message for him. Mr Buhari, who is the Nigerian President, is a father and he is a grandfather; his administration has assured us – the family – that they would do their possible best to ensure that my daughter is released.”
“He also promised the nation and almost promised the whole world that his administration will do its possible best to ensure that those in captivity are released.
“So, I’m pleading with him now to fulfil his promise; I’m begging him,”
According to Leah’s father, the abduction of his daughter has been a major concern for members of the family in the last two years.
He added that the health condition of the girl’s mother has been unstable, stressing that she goes to the hospital almost every week.
Nathan was worried that the government has yet to make any contact with him since 2018, although he noted that they once received a delegation sent by the President.
He thanked the international community for their efforts so far and asked them to pressure the Nigerian government to secure his daughter’s release.
“Personally, the Federal Government has not contacted me, except in October 2018 when the Minister for Information and Culture and other two ministers came to my house in Dapchi, to represent the President himself to condole with us and assured that the administration is doing its possible best to ensure that my daughter returns home safely.
“Since then, I did not hear anything from them up till this time; no result at all. I am 100 per cent assured that my daughter is still alive and one day, she will come home safely,” an optimistic Nathan said.
The father of abducted Dapchi Schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu, has reacted to the news making the rounds that his daughter has given birth to a baby and has been married off to a commander of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
In a phone conversation with Channels Television’s correspondent on Sunday, Mr Nathan Sharibu said he would rather not make any comment on the issue.
He added that his primary concern is to see his daughter return alive and will, therefore, not give any credence to any rumours.
News that she had given birth, as well as her alleged marriage to a Boko Haram commander, started making the rounds after Journalist, Ahmad Sakilda, who is believed to have access to the insurgents announced in a tweet that the abducted schoolgirl is now a mother.
The tweet read: “Why, I wonder, do we pretend that leaving Leah behind won’t result in pregnancy? Since the terror group announced condemning her to slavery, is there any step or collective focus on preventing similar occurrences? She’s a mother, but I don’t know about the gender of the baby,”.
Why, I wonder, do we pretend that leaving Leah behind won’t result in pregnancy? Since the terror group announced condemning her to slavery, is there any step or collective focus on preventing similar occurrences? She’s a mother, but I don’t know about the gender of the baby.
Christians in Yobe State have again reiterated their call on the Federal Government to intensify efforts in rescuing the only Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu among other abductees who are still in captivity.
The Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the State, Rev. Father Philibus Yakubu, made this known at an inter-denominational church service to celebrate Christmas in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital on Thursday.
“I am not satisfied with what is on ground. I call on the State Government with a very strong voice – I know the government is trying – but let it intensify efforts to see to the release of Mr. Zaka, Leah, others and even our Muslim brothers who are held in captivity together with them.
A religious group, Congress of Northern Nigeria Christians (CNNC) has asked the Federal Government to ensure the release of abducted Dapchi schoolgirl in Yobe state, Leah Sharibu, before Christmas.
The group said the release of Ms. Sharibu will be the best gift they will receive during the Yuletide.
The request was made during a meeting of the association in Kaduna state which drew members from the 19 northern States and the Federal Capital Territory.
Convener of the meeting, Professor Adamu Baikie lamented that after failing to release Ms Sharibu along with her schoolmates who were kidnapped in their secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe State, on February the 19th, 2018, nothing much has been heard about her whereabouts or even efforts being made by Security agencies to secure her release.
“Who is it that has not been saying that the government should do the needful? Maybe the government needs to be told what the needful is. The needful is to get this girl out, but they are the only ones who have the means to do so.
“We cannot but depend on divine protection and God answering our prayers. If we are in a position to do something, we would have done more than what we have done. The situation is not beyond us, but to execute what we can do is beyond us.
“We have not relented in praying for her and praying for justice to be done,” he added.
Also, a Christian leader from Borno state, Reverend Toma Ragijinya, while lamenting the devastating condition of residents of Internally Displaced Persons in the state as a result of the Boko Haram attacks, said the church will continue to pray and sustain advocacies that will compel responses from government for the release of Ms. Sharibu who has spent over one year in captivity.
“What I will appeal to the government is that they have the capacity to do more than that to release this young girl. So we appeal that before the end of this year, before Christmas, let Leah Sharibu be released.
“We are praying and appealing that all those in authority should make sure that this girl is released and all Nigerians will celebrate her release.”
The group also urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on the deplorable roads across the country, which they pointed out also contribute to the spate of insecurity in the country.
They specifically urged the government to reactivate the old rail lines as an alternative means of transportation, instead of waiting when it will complete the new standard gauges that are capital intensive.
It is 2,000 days already since 276 schoolgirls were abducted from their hostel at the Government Girls’ Secondary School Chibok, Borno State.
Fifty-seven girls, however, escaped within days of the abduction which took place on April 14, 2014, while 219 remained in captivity.
Five years later, an additional 107 girls returned – four of them as a result of Nigerian Military interventions, 21 released in October 2016 after negotiations with their captors, and a further 82 set free by the terrorist group in May 2017.
To mark the day, members of the Bring Back Our Girls Group (BBOG) held another sit out in Abuja, demanding the intervention of the Federal Government for the girls’ release.
Shoes bearing names of the abducted girls were used to draw the attention of the government and the international community to the plight of the girls, as well as all other abducted persons, including Leah Sharibu who was abducted in February 2018 in Yobe State.
The family members of Leah Sharibu, the Dapchi schoolgirl in Boko Haram captivity, have called on the Federal Government to match its words with action by ensuring the release of their daughter.
They made the appeal during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday in Yola, the Adamawa State capital three days after the government dismissed the reports of Leah’s death.
The family said the government is not doing enough to ensure their daughter’s release, adding that the Nigerian authorities should do everything possible to get Leah and others out of the terrorists’ captivity.
In her reaction, Leah’s biological mother, Rahila, decried that despite the assurances from the government, her daughter has remained in the captivity of the insurgents since February 2018.
She said, “I have come to cry to the government; we are very disturbed and worried. Since this girl was abducted, we have known no peace.
“We are pleading to them to please bring back this girl … my prayer is that God will hear our prayers and bring back our daughter so that we can have peace.”
Leah’s stepmother, Rebecca, said they were excited when they heard that their daughter was alive contrary to the recent reports of her death.
She, however, pleaded with the government to help ensure the release of Leah from the captivity of her abductors.
Rebecca said, “Just as we learned that Leah is alive on Saturday, honestly we are very happy to hear that. However, we are still pleading because it is not only today that we are being told that Lear is dead.
“When the general elections were getting closer, we were told that Leah is dead but they came out to say Leah is alive, until when Grace came out to say Leah is dead. Please, they should try and bring back my daughter.”
Explaining how Leah became her daughter, Rebecca said, “Just as you heard from her biological mother, but I am her mother because since she was very small, she was given to me.
“She grew up in my hands and I put her in nursery school, to primary school and up to secondary school. I trained her and taught her the fear of God and she grew up in the fear of God.”
The Presidency says Leah Sharibu, the schoolgirl who was kidnapped by a faction of Boko Haram terrorists in February 2018, is alive.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, stated this while speaking to a group of journalists on Saturday in Abuja.
A year and six months after Leah was abducted from the Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School, Dapchi in Yobe State, Shehu insisted that the Federal Government is making efforts to ensure her release from her captors.
He dismissed reports that the schoolgirl had been harmed by her abductors, noting that the Muhammadu Buhari administration would not give up on her safe return.
“Instead of giving up, the government is carrying forward processes that should hopefully yield her release by her captors,” Shehu was quoted as saying in a statement.
He added, “Lines of communications remain open with the kidnappers, ISWA, to secure the release of Leah Sharibu.
“Contrary to false reports, she is alive – given assurances from our security agencies –, and the government is committed to her safe return, as well as all other hostages to their families.
“Kidnapping for ransom should never be encouraged. This means not capitulating to the demands of terrorists: refrain from rewarding their heinous crimes with payment.”
According to the presidential spokesman, the government understands how difficult these times are for Leah’s family and friends, with the abduction.
He, however, stated that the government was “pursuing many options” to ensure the safe return of the girls.
Shehu said, “We must commit to law and communication, using the breadth of strategies at our disposal: legal initiatives, stakeholder cooperation, involvement of all relevant parties, and the use of the latest hostage negotiation techniques.
”Kidnapping for ransom is rising across the Sahel. We must – collectively – make sure we implement best practice to prevent its exploitation.”
The President’s spokesman described reports of Leah’s death as ‘fake news’, and called for patience in dealing with the challenge the case poses.
He gave assurance that the present administration was fully conscious that any misstep on a delicate issue as such could be costly.
The President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), His Eminence, Dr Samson ‘Supo Ayokunle has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the release of Miss Leah Sharibu, Grace Taku and other hostages in the den of the Boko Haram terrorists.
The primary duty of any serious government, according to the CAN President, is the security of lives and property of the governed. Any government that cannot guarantee this primary responsibility may lose the confidence of the citizens.
In a press statement signed by Special Assistant, (Media) to the CAN President, Pastor Bayo Oladeji, CAN said that it has watched a video Boko Haram terrorists’ camp where Grace Taku, an aide worker of Action for Hunger, had appealed to the Federal Government, CAN, and other well-meaning people to secure her freedom and those of the other five victims, who were recently attacked and abducted by their captors recently.
The Christian body stated that Boko Haram sect sometime in April this year reportedly kidnapped a National Youth Service Corps member, Abraham Amuta and a cleric with Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel), identified as Pastor Moses Oyeleke in Borno State, stressing that they have not heard anything about their whereabouts.
CAN’s communique further states that they have heard the prompt response made by the Federal government to the Save-Our-Soul cry of Grace, adding that they (CAN) join her in calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, and the security agencies, especially the Department of State Security to secure her freedom, and that of Leah Sharibu.
“Grace Taku has cried out on behalf of other hostages, like Amuta and Pastor Moses Oyeleke before getting too late.
“We urge the Federal Government to expedite action toward the captives’ release, as in that of Dapchi girls except for Leah Sharibu. We believe strongly that Leah Sharibu is still alive, hail and hearty and she will and others must be set free from the captivity. Enough of paying lips service to the menace of security challenges in the country.
“We have been calling for a total overhauling of the security apparatus of the country, and we have also asked the developed nations to assist Nigeria in combating the challenges before the country becomes unbearable.
“There is no exaggeration to say Nigeria roads are unsafe as kidnappers, terrorists, killer herdsmen and bandits are operating with impunity.
“How come these six aid workers were abducted and taken to the den of the captives without the awareness of the security agencies? What has become their intelligence gathering? Are we sure there are no saboteurs among our security agencies? Is there anything the government and the security agencies are doing to stop this menace that we don’t know to avert its negative effect as some notorious people taking the law into their hands?
“We call on well-meaning people and agencies to join CAN in pleading with our government and the security agencies to wake up from their slumber before it will be too late. Our prayer is that the awesome God will come to the aid of this country. He will free all the captives and comfort all the bereaved of the killings in the country, ” CAN’s statement partly read.