Nigerians celebrate Leah Sharibu’s 16th birthday, demand her release


Nigerians on Tuesday celebrated the 16th birthday of an abducted Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu, as they asked the Federal Government to ensure her safe release from captivity.

Sharibu was among the 112 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram members at the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19, 2018.

While most of the victims were released, she was reportedly held for refusing to deny her Christian faith.

On Tuesday, May 14, Nigerians took to different social media platforms to mark her birthday as they demanded her release after 449 days in captivity.

The Convener of the #BringBackOurGirls movement, Oby Ezekwesili, lamented that despite assurances by President Muhammadu Buhari, Sharibu had yet to regain her freedom.

“History will record that a young daughter of our country #LeahSharibu was left behind when her schoolmates were retrieved from terrorist abduction. She stood unwilling to negotiate her faith for freedom. @MBuhari promised, yet Leah is still with terrorists. She’s 16 today. Tragic,” she wrote on Twitter.

A former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, while urging the government to do more to ensure her release, prayed for the victim’s family members.

He tweeted, “As Leah Sharibu marks her birthday in captivity today, I join other Nigerians and lovers of peace in the world to urge the FG to ensure her release. God will sustain her and her family members.”

A former aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, said Sharibu exemplified the qualities of a true Christian.

“Today is Leah Sharibu’s birthday. She has been held captive by Boko Haram for over 400 days now simply because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. She is a reference point for courage, strength and faith and a source of inspiration and pride for every believer,” he said.

A popular Nigerian gospel singer, Penam Percy Paul, composed a special song to commemorate Sharibu’s birth, as he lauded her refusal to deny Jesus Christ.

The music video had been shared by many social media users as of Tuesday when it was released on the Internet.

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alh Atiku Abubakar, said he hoped steps would be taken towards the release of all youngsters in captivity, including Sharibu.

“The mother of Leah Sharibu and the entire family are still waiting. The wait is getting longer. Nigerian authorities can put a smile on the face of her mother and her family by reuniting her with them,” Amnesty International also wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters on Tuesday besieged the Plateau State House of Assembly in Jos to demand the release of the teenager.

The groups gathered under the aegis of the Christian Women for Excellence and Empowerment of Nigerian Society, Leah Sharibu Foundation, Catalyst for Peace and Justice and Gideon and Fumi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation.

Before proceeding to the Assembly complex, members of the groups converged on the ECWA headquarters church in Jos to mark Sharibu’s birth and pray for her release.

The President of the female wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Mrs Rhoda Jahota, who broke down in tears while presenting a protest letter to the Speaker of the Assembly, said women were not happy with the continued stay of Sharibu in captivity.

She said they decided to embark on the peaceful protest to tell the world the position of women and enjoin the Speaker and Governor Simon Lalong to prevail on the Federal Government to facilitate her release without further delay.

She said, “We have endured enough as women. We don’t know what is happening with her since her abduction. You are a father and you know what it means to be in pains over the tragedy that can happen to one’s child, especially given the circumstances under which Leah was taken away from her parents. We hand over this letter to you to give to the governor so that together you can prevail on the Federal Government to do something and relieve our pains by ensuring that she is freed.”

The Secretary-General of the Christian Women for Excellence and Empowerment of Nigerian Society, Mrs Joy Machunga, also condemned the continued detention of Sharibu because of her faith.

She said, “We are taken aback by what is happening not only to Leah, but in Nigeria. We want justice. We are calling on the Federal Government to ensure that Nigerian citizens have access to justice in their own country.”

The Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Mr Joshua Madaki, while receiving the letter from the protesters, promised to deliver same to the governor.

He said members of the Assembly were with the protesting groups in the struggle for Sharibu’s release, just as he called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the matter.

The Speaker said, “As an Assembly, our hearts go out to you and the soul of this nation. It started like weeks and moved to months and now years. Her case is not beyond God. I don’t know how God will do it, but I have this conviction that this 2019, our daughter and others in captivity will give testimony.

“We are calling on the President and our security agencies not to relent in their efforts until those still held are freed.”