Pressure on Nigeria to free Boko Haram captives

lone Christian girl turns 16 Tuesday after being abducted by militants

Rafiu Ajakaye   | 14.05.2019
Pressure on Nigeria to free Boko Haram captives

LAGOS Nigeria 

Amnesty International and Nigerians ratcheted up pressure on the government Tuesday to ensure the prompt release of those in Boko Haram captivity, including a Christian girl being held for refusing to renounce her faith.

Social media space awash with comments asking Abuja to free Leah Sharibu, who turned 16 Tuesday, and other Boko Haram prisoners.

Leah was abducted from her school dormitory in March 2018 alongside 109 others in Dapchi. All but Sharibu have been freed, while about five died in captivity.

"Nigerian authorities must redouble their efforts to rescue the hundreds of civilians still detained by Boko Haram - including Leah Sharibu, who was abducted from her school in Dapchi town, and the remaining Chibok girls," Amnesty International said in a statement commemorating the teens birthday.

Sesugh Akume, former spokesman of the advocacy group BringBackOurGirls, said militants refused to free her on account of her Christian faith. He called the abduction and continued detention a failure of governance.

"It is really sad that Leah Sharibu turns 16 today on this 449th day of her abduction and captivity, long after her colleagues she was abducted along with were returned," Akume told Anadolu Agency.

"Today we mark her birthday, as we celebrate her faith and courage, and call on the regime of President [Muhammadu] Buhari to return Leah Sharibu.

"This same call we make for Alice Ngaddah, the UNICEF aid worker kidnapped along with two other aid workers who have been murdered. This is without leaving out 112 Chibok girls.”

The Dapchi abduction was the second mass kidnapping of schoolchildren by Boko Haram after April 2014 when 276 girls were abducted. At least 112 remain missing.

Leah’s father, Nathan Sharibu, demanded the government mobilize every resource to free his daughter.

"I am sad beyond explanation to have my daughter still being held by complete strangers," he told Anadolu Agency. "I plead with the [federal government] and the international community to please do their best to free her. The government in particular should do everything within its powers to fulfill the promise made to us that our daughter would return to us."

The latest worry comes amid a report that Boko Haram may propose to the government to free some abducted aid workers in exchange for some of its fighters in government custody.

"Government is trying to confirm through back channels the intelligence that the terrorists want to swap some aid workers and Leah with some of their fighters and their spouses in detention," a presidential official told Anadolu Agency, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Hundreds of Nigerians, male, female and children, are believed to be held by various factions of the violent group.

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