On a hot afternoon, news filtered into the town of Dapchi, that the government had succeeded in securing the release of some female students who had been kidnapped about a month earlier by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
With joy and high expectations, Leah Sharibu’s parent awaited the return of their abducted child, among the others who had been rescued. Little did they know that their joy will be shattered, as they would not find their daughter, among the returnees.
Two years after over 100 school girls and one boy was kidnapped, by the insurgents in Dapchi, Yobe state, North-east Nigeria, Leah Sharibu remains in their custody, even after the federal government secured the release of the others. Although five girls allegedly died while being taken away by the insurgents.
According to her mother, she was not released by the terror group because she refused to denounce her Christian faith.
Captured while she was fourteen, Miss Sharibu, would likely turn seventeen on May 14, in captivity, if not released before then.
In January 2020, a journalist with access to the terror group, Ahmad Sakilda announced via his twitter handle that Miss Sharibu has given birth in captivity, although he could not confirm the gender of the child.
However, many reports that surfaced online stated that she had been married off to one of Boko Haram commander and has been delivered of a baby boy.
Her father, Mr Sharibu while reacting to the news, said all he wants is to see his daughter home alive.
Although the former president, Goodluck Jonathan and the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari are from two different political parties, their response to the Chibok and Dapchi girls’ abductions were similar.
How it happened
At about 5:30 on February 19, 2018, members of the Boko Haram terrorist group stormed a Yobe community and abducted the school girls from the Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), (formerly known as Government Girls Secondary School, GSSS), located on the outskirts of Dapchi, Yunusari Local Government Area.
The President and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari waited four days after their abduction to react to the incident.
“When I received the devastating news of the attack on the school and the fact that the local authorities could not account for all the students, I immediately dispatched a high-level delegation on a fact-finding visit to the town. I also instructed the security agencies to deploy in the full and not spare any effort to ensure that all the girls are returned safely, and the attackers arrested and made to face justices”, Buhari had said.
One month after the girls were kidnapped, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, announced that the terror group dropped the girls off in the town. He added that they were released from captivity through a back channel with no ransom paid.
Prior to incident, governor of Yobe, Ibrahim Geidam, had reacted to the withdrawal of the military troops from Dapchi, but, the army explained that its withdrawal was due to lack of insurgency in Dapchi and its environment. The army also claimed to have handed the area over to the police.
After stating conflicting figures of the number of girls released to government officials, the federal government eventually confirmed that 106 of the 110 kidnapped girls were released.
The minister also confirmed that the boy among them was also released by the insurgents.
In February 2019, one year after, there were rumours that Miss Sharibu was dead, following a video released by the terror group, where an abducted aid worker, Grace Tanku pleaded with the Nigerian government not to leave her to die, as they did with Leah Sharibu and Alice.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government in its reaction, dismissed the reports as fake and a device by the opposition to tarnish the administrations image ahead of the 2019 general elections.
In the same vein, 276 of female students were abducted by Boko Haram at a boarding school in Chibok, Borno state on April 24, 2014 during the administration of a former president, Goodluck Jonathan, who took two weeks to address the abduction.
Almost six years after, over 100 of the abducted Chibok girls remain in captivity.
Insecurity persists despite presidency’s claim of victory
Despite presidency’s several declarations of having defeated the terror group, their killing spree still continues.
Femi Adesina, the presidents spokesperson in an interview with Channels Television Sunday Politics recently, argued that the Buhari-led administration has handled insecurity better than the previous administration.
“if you hear Nigeria, social media, and some international agencies, you will think it is all over in the North-east, it is not. The people living there will tell you that the difference is between heaven and earth,” Mr Adesina said.
He said that efforts are in place to rescue the abducted schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu.
Boko Haram which has been in existence for over a decade is responsible for the killings of thousands of Nigerians, especially in the North-East, according to a United Nations’ report.
Stating reasons why Sharibu is still in captivity, Acting Director Defence Information, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu said that troops were being careful not to endanger any of the captive’s lives as any “reckless move may result in their annihilation by the terrorists.”
The general noted that the terror group abducts to raise funds for their illegal operation.
Even as government continues to mouth assertions that the terrorists have been dissipated, they are still on rampage, spreading their killing spree with seeming impunity. On January 3, a group called the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), stormed a town called Michika in Adamawa state, and abducted and murdered a chairman of the Christian Association, Lawan Andami in Adamawa state.
And also, the bodies of a Kaduna based doctor’s wife, Mrs Ataga and a seminarian Micheal Nnadi were found dumped by the roadside after they were kidnapped at different points.
Mrs Ataga was kidnapped with her two children on January 24, while Mr Nnadi was kidnapped with three others from a seminary on January 8, 2020.
After killing Mrs Ataga, her kidnappers still called to demand ransome of N20 million for the release of her children.
Recently, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enouch Adeboye led a prayer walk bearing a placard, reading that “All lives are important to God” with millions of his church members to end the spate of insecurity and wanton killings in the country.
Though this is the prayer of millions of other Nigerians, it has gone unanswered so far.
President Buhari in a message he personally signed to mark the second anniversary of the abduction of the 107 Dapchi students, again promised the nation that his administration was committed to ensure the release of all persons currently in the captivity of terrorists across the country and beyond.
As Nigerians wait for the fulfillment of this commitment, Leah Sharibu and others have continued to suffer for over 730 days in the den of their abductors, even as Nigerians continue to ask: when will the kidnappings and killings actually end.
By Oluwakemi Adelagun…
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