Leah Sharibu, A Lone Voice Drowning In The Noise
Leah Sharibu, the only remaining captor out of the 113 students of Government Girls Science and Technical College abducted by boko haram terrorists from Dapchi Yobe State, on February 18, 2018 is now practically begging the Federal Government for help. Leah Sharibu who is being held captive for her refusal to renounce her faith and convert to Islam has called on President Buhari to secure her release and return her to her family. In an audio tape which was secured by TheCable on Monday, Leah introduced herself and begged to be released in Hausa.
She said, “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.”
TheCable also obtained a picture where Leah was seated on a mat, and wearing a pink hijab.
The Federal Government has reacted to the audio release, saying the President Muhammadu Buhari administration will spare nothing to ensure Leah and other girls abducted by Boko Haram regained their freedom.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in his Twitter handle, said: “We are aware of the audio in circulation concerning the unfortunate situation of our daughter, Leah Sharibu. In dealing with terrorists, nothing is too trivial. The secret service is analyzing the voice. Our reaction will follow the outcome of the investigation. For President Buhari, nothing will be spared in bringing all our girls home. He will not rest until all of them are free.”
However, the statement of note that inspired this write-up is when the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina said on Channels Television that “Only God knows when Leah Sharibu will return”
Recall that when the 113 girls were abducted, and of which five were reported to have died in the process, the Federal Government made a strong statement that “Nothing will be spared in bringing the captured girls home”. One month afterwards, 100 of the girls were released, this move elicited praises to the Federal Government and hope for Leah Sharibu who was kept back at the time.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, denied any report of ransom payment to secure the girls’ release. “It is not true that we paid ransom for the release of the Dapchi girls, neither was there a prisoner swap to secure their release. What happened was that the abduction itself was a breach of the ceasefire talks between the insurgents and the government; hence it became a moral burden on the abductors. Any report that we paid ransom or engaged in prisoner swap is false,’’
But six months down the line, nothing more was being said concerning Leah, and while her family continued to hope, the church continued to pray, activist continued to campaign for her freedom, the FG kept mum. However a UN report, which was released on August 17 2018, burst the bubble regarding the Dapchi abduction.
The United Nations reported that the Federal Government paid a huge sum as ransom to secure the release of Dapchi school girls in Yobe State, “The predominance in the region of the cash economy, without controls, is conducive to terrorist groups funded by extortion, charitable donations, smuggling, remittances and kidnapping. In Nigeria, 111 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi were kidnapped on February 18, 2018, and released by ISWAP on March 21, 2018, in exchange for a large ransom payment.’’
The report was signed by Edmund Fitton-Brown, Coordinator, Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, and Kairat Umarov, Chair, Security Council Committee, who said the report was “comprehensive and independent.” This was contained in the 22nd Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, pursuant to Resolution 2368 (2017) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – ISIL – (Da’esh), Al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities.
The UN report sparked fresh controversy and Alhaji Mohammed responded that the Federal Government stands by its position that no ransom was paid for release of the Dapchi school girls, and challenged the United Nations to provide proof of payment.
He said: “It is so sad that the media in Nigeria enjoys de-marketing its own country. The United Nations offered no proof of payment, yet, the media is saying we paid and we stand by our position, we did not pay and anybody who said we paid should provide proof of payment”. “Where is the proof of payment? Again, why should they take the UN’s word against our own? It is very sad, and some people said Lai Mohammed lied, I was not contacted. You see, this is what we have been saying about fake news. Let them (UN) provide proof of payment. Of course, we did not pay and we stand by our position that we (FG) did not pay.”
The Nigerian military also reacted to the UN report, the Director of Defence Information, Brigadier-General John Agim, said the military played no role in the negotiation or payment of ransom for release of the Dapchi school girls. He said the issue of negotiation or ransom should be clarified from the Federal Government and not the military.
Femi Adesina’s statement however, can be translated to mean the position of the Presidency regarding Leah Sharibu’s captivity. If the Presidency, which initially promised to do everything possible to secure the release of the Dapchi girls have left the matter for God, then there may be little hope for Leah, who is practically begging to be rescued and at same time asking for love and care to be extended to her family.
One can only imagine the pain and torture Leah’s family, especially her mother, has been going through in the past months. Now hearing such statement from the Federal Government, whom you have been trusting to secure the release of your daughter, could be the final nail in the coffin.
But what is the motive of boko haram in releasing Leah’s picture and audio to Nigerians. If indeed ransom was paid for the release of the 100 other girls according to the UN report, then one can safely conclude that boko haram is using Leah as a bait to get the Federal Government to pay another huge sum to secure her release.
Being that elections are around the corner and the APC government is desperate to score another card in the minds of Nigerians, maybe, just maybe Leah’s return may happen sooner than we think. Whichever way it works, Leah should be released. She should not be used to play politics or bait between boko haram and the government. She should not be used to flex muscles as to who is stronger, who is right and who is not ready to admit defeat.
She is a child, just a child, who was unfortunate to be caught in the midst of a hopeless security situation. She is just a child who has been made to face horrors she could only have imagined. She is just a child who is ready to die for her beliefs and values. She is just a child exposed to hunger, cold, rape etc. She is just a child begging to be returned to her family. The Federal Government of Nigeria should do WHATEVER it takes to secure Leah’s release. Leah’s voice should not be allowed to drown in the midst of all the noise
What do you think should be done about Leah!