By Rafiu Ajakaye
Nigeria’s top clerics on Friday appealed to Boko Haram militants to free all the children in their captivity, especially a teenage Christian girl who was abducted alongside 112 other schoolgirls in February this year.
The militants have freed all of the schoolgirls except Leah Sharibu, who local media reported, was still being held because she refused to quit her Christian faith. They are holding several other children captive.
Boko Haram recently said the teenager would be executed by mid-October if the government fails to fulfil certain conditions.
“We appeal to (Boko Haram) to please, for the sake of God, release these innocent girls. They are very innocent and I believe that by doing this Nigeria will appreciate,” Reverend Yakubu Pam, a head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, told a joint news briefing he addressed with another prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Mohmamed Khalid.
“We heard they said next week is their deadline [to execute Sharibu] 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.”
Khalid said the militants were acting contrary to Islamic values and called on the government to exert pressure on them to free the girl and other captives.
“We want the world to understand that these people that are holding our children and other people in captivity are not representing anything, they are on their own,” Khalid, imam of the Apo Legislative Quarters, said.
“Islam is not asking them to abduct anybody and we the Muslims are going to join hands with anybody to do anything possible to secure Nigerians from their agony. We are appealing to them to rethink and revisit their minds so that they will release their captives, especially somebody like Leah Sharibu.”
Thousands of Nigerians are suspected to remain in the captivity of the militant group, including dozens of schoolgirls abducted in Chibok town in 2014. Over 100 of the girls have since been freed.