By Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Peter Okutu & Marie-Therese Lalong
•Pleads with govt, Boko Haram to ensure her release
•Senate, MURIC, CAN react as Buhari pledges to secure her release
•PDP plumbs the depths of infamy — Lai Mohammed
•Dapchi girls’ abduction, release, height of serial deceit, hoax— Ohanaeze
LAGOS —The parents of the Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, who is still being held by Boko Haram because of her refusal to renounce her faith, said yesterday that they had been let down by the Federal Government who failed to negotiate her release alongside her school mates.
Mother of the girl, Rebecca Sharibu, pleaded with the government and Boko Haram to release her daughter, saying that her daughter cannot be forced to embrace a religion unknown to her.
This came as the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and the Senate yesterday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the immediate release of the only Dapchi school girl as well as Chibok girls still being held by Boko Haram.
The only Christian student among the abducted Dapchi girls, Miss Leah Sharibu is still being held by the insurgents because of her faith and refusal to convert to Islam.
Of the 110 students abducted from Government Girls Techncal Science College, Dapchi, 104 had been released, five were said to have died in the process, while the insurgents are holding on to just one, Leah Sharibu.
This call came on a day the Federal Government asked the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to bury its head in shame for saying the Dapchi girls’ abduction and release were stage-managed.
Parents of Christian girl held by Boko Haram speak
Mrs Sharibu said her daughter’s colleagues have shared with her how the 15-year-old Leah was stopped at the last minute from regaining her freedom.
“But my heart was broken on Wednesday morning when I searched through the released girls and could not set my eyes on my dear daughter, Leah,” Mrs. Sharibu said as tears streamed down her face.
Mrs. Sharibu just returned from hospital, having fainted after receiving the news that Leah, her first child and only daughter, was not among those released.
She sat within her compound — a small home fenced with clay and thatch sheets in a corner of Dapchi — with two cooking pots steaming next to her on charcoal stoves.
She said: “If Leah is home, she and her little brother would attend to everything in this compound, she would not let me do anything.
“What her school mates that returned told me was that my daughter (was told she) must recite the Kalima Shahada (the Islamic profession of faith in one God), and she does not know how to recite it.
“So they told her that if she didn’t know how to recite it, then she should come down from the vehicle. She had already boarded the vehicle alongside others that were ready to come home. So she was asked to go down and join some three other females that they said they met where they were kept.
“They said my daughter would only be brought back home the day she knows how to recite Kalima shahada.
“She insisted that she does not know how to recite and that she was not brought up as a Muslim. That was why she was held back. She was asked to go and stay with those three women who were also captives there.
“She then pleaded with her friends that if they eventually made it home successfully, they should inform us, her parents, to continue to help her pray for God to protect her and bring her home safely as well, that whether she survived or not, she still need prayers.
“My concern and question to the government is that since we were told that the negotiation was done for all the schoolgirls, why did government accept that only my daughter be left behind when others’ were freed and even brought home?
“So I am begging the federal government of Nigeria, if the negotiation was because they loved all the girls as their own, they should do everything to help release my own girl.
“To the Boko Haram members, I have nothing to say other than that they should have pity on my only daughter and release her. It was not her fault that she is a Christian, I know that in this world, everyone choose the path of faith he or she has chosen in worshipping God. There is no way one could be forced to do what he or she does not know. It is not possible.”
Also speaking, Leah’s father, Mr. Sharibu, said he was away in his home state, Adamawa, when he received good news on Wednesday morning that his little girl and her colleagues were on their way back home.
He said: “Half way on my return journey home, I received a call that the girls had arrived and only my daughter was left behind because she refused to convert to Islam. I became sad. To make matters worse, I was called again to be informed that the mother was unconscious and was in the hospital.”
He said he would not be happy until his daughter was rescued and brought home like her mates.
“Nigeria must do all within its powers to bring back my daughter, the same way they did to others. I really thank and appreciate the people of Dapchi community, especially how they rallied round us at this time of great sorrow.
“I am from Hong in Adamawa State, I got married here in Dapchi and all my children were born here,” he said.
He said he does not believe in the existence of Boko Haram, adding that the group, especially the ones that abducted his daughters, appeared to him like agents of politicians.
“I don’t know Boko Haram; I have never seen Boko Haram and I don’t believe there is anything like Boko Haram in this country. What I see and feel about them is they are politicians or group used by politicians to threaten lives and endanger the lives of our children.
“To me, there is nothing like Boko Haram. If truly they are Boko Haram, they wouldn’t have come here and abduct our girls and on their own, return these girls in broad daylight and no one was there to confront them,” Sharibu lamented.
Ensure her release —MURIC, CAN
However, President Buhari, apparently heeding the call of MURIC, CAN and the Senate, assured yesterday that he would not relent in his effort to ensure the release of the Leah Sharibu.
MURIC in a statement signed by the Director, Ishaq Akintola, said the basis for holding Sharibu back was “faulty and unIslamic.”
Akintola said the decision of the sect to keep Sharibu captive was a move to divide Nigeria along religious lines.
The statement read: “We reject Boko Haram as an Islamic group. We urge the leadership and members of the group to re-examine its ideological base.
“Leah Sharibu must be set free because the basis for holding her after setting her schoolmates free is faulty and unIslamic. We charge (FG) to go back to the negotiation table in order to secure the release of the only Christian girl among the Dapchi girls who is being held back by the insurgents.
“FG should note that Boko Haram is not as daft as many people think. By withholding the Christian girl, they seek to divide Nigerians once again along religious lines.
“We commend Sharibu’s courage for refusing to bow to pressure in violation of her fundamental human rights. Our hearts are heavy with grief over her plight. We salute her courage. Shame on Boko Haram for oppressing a lone, vulnerable and helpless girl. Shame on all those who suppress freedom of worship.”
On its part, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in the 19 Northern States and the FCT, also urged the Federal Government to ensure the immediate release of Miss Sharibu.
CAN Chairman, Rev Yakubu Pam in a press statement issued in Jos yesterday, said the Federal Government should be commended for ensuring the release of most of the abducted girls, warning, however, that the case of Leah should not be swept under the carpet but her immediate unconditional release ensured.
Pam said Northern Christian leaders and Christian faithful shared in the joy of parents of the freed Dapchi school girls and appealed to parents of the deceased ones to take heart to bear the irreparable loss of their daughters.
Don’t relent, Senate urges FG
Reacting in a similar vein, the Senate asked the Federal Government not to rest on its oars until it ensured that the remaining students of both Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State and Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, who are still in the custody of Boko Haram insurgents were rescued and released to their parents.
It, however, hailed President Muhammadu Buhari, Yobe State governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam, and the country’s security agencies for the various roles they played that led to the release of Dapchi students on Wednesday.
The Senate urged government to learn from the abduction of the girls by protecting schools in the North-East geo-political zone and other parts of the country to stave off a repeat of 2014 Chibok and 2018 Dapchi girls saga.
Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a point of order by Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe North).
Senator Lawan, who came under Order 43 of the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended, said: “Mr. President, I want to take this opportunity to formally thank you and the Senate for the support, and to commend the Federal Government and the Yobe State Government for remaining focused.
“President Muhammadu Buhari visited our state about a week after the abduction and he promised that the Federal Government would leave no stone unturned in the effort to bring back our Dapchi girls.
“After commending everyone, we still have one more student of Dapchi that has not returned home. We still have 112 of Chibok girls that have not been returned.
“I want to take this opportunity to urge the Federal Government to expedite action and leave no stone unturned in the effort to recover the remaining girl from Dapchi and 112 from Chibok”.
In his remarks, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, commended the Federal and the Yobe State governments, security agencies as well as lawmakers for their concerted efforts in ensuring the release of the abducted school girls.
Saraki said: “I commend and thank all our colleagues for their efforts from this chamber and for standing with the people of Yobe State. We commend the government, the President and the people of Yobe State for the efforts they put in the rescue of the girls.
“But there is one more girl from Dapchi, which all the security agencies must do their best to see that, immediately, is brought back as well as the 112 Chibok girls.”
I won’t relent, Buhari assures
As though he was heeding the call, President Buhari assured that he would not relent in his effort to ensure the release of the lone abducted Dapchi girl, Leah Sharibu, yet to be released.
Presidential Buhari in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu yesterday in Abuja, said he was as committed to the freedom of the only Dapchi schoolgirl still in captivity as he was to the girls’ freedom when all 110 were in the captivity of Boko Haram terrorists.
He said: “The Buhari administration will not relent in efforts to bring Leah Sharibu safely back home to her parents as it has done for the other girls after she was held back by the terrorists over her decision, as reported, not to convert from Christianity to Islam.
“President Buhari is fully conscious of his duty under the constitution to protect all Nigerians, irrespective of faith, ethnic background or geopolitical location and will not shirk in this responsibility.
“The President is equally mindful of the fact that true followers of Islam all over the world respect the injunction that there is no compulsion in religion. To this effect, no one or group can impose its religion on another.
“His heart goes out to the isolated parents who must watch others rejoice while their own daughter is still away. The lone Dapchi Girl, Leah, will not be abandoned.
“President Buhari assures the Sharibu family that he will continue to do all he can to ensure that they also have cause to rejoice with their daughter soon.”
PDP plumbing depths of infamy — Lai Mohammed
Meanwhile, reacting to PDP’s statement Wednesday that the abduction and release of the girls were stage-managed, The Federal Government has accused the opposition party of plumbing the depths of infamy.
In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said such postulation portrayed the PDP as an inhuman, insensitive, unpatriotic and unworthy party.
He said since the release of the Dapchi girls were negotiated by friendly countries and reputable international organizations, it would have taken a conspiracy of global proportions to have stage-managed the adoption and release of the girls.
Alhaji Mohammed said the reaction of the PDP amounted to sour grapes, especially because the party failed woefully – when it was in power – to quickly resolve a similar abduction of schoolgirls.
“As we have said many times since the abduction of the Dapchi schoolgirls, no government is exempted from its own share of tragedies. What makes the difference is the way such tragedies are managed.
‘’Whereas it took the PDP all of 18 days to even acknowledge the abduction of the Chibok girls in 2014, the APC-led Federal Government acted promptly and responsively when the Dapchi schoolgirls were abducted on February 19, 2018, hence their quick release,” he said.
The Minister said it was unfortunate that the PDP that failed woefully as a ruling party has also failed grievously as an opposition party, going by its insensitive and crude response to the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls – a development that calls for non-partisan celebration.
He said: “In its 16 years in power, the PDP redefined governance as cluelessness, massive looting of the public treasury and crude exhibition of power. In its over three years in opposition, the PDP has again shown it does not understand the role of the opposition in a democracy.”
Abduction, release of Dapchi girls a hoax — OHANAEZE
In its reaction to the school girls’ release yesterday, the apex Igbo organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, described the alleged abduction and release of the Dapchi girls by agents of the federal government as the height of serial, inglorious pathological deceit and hoax the country had ever witnessed in its history.
In a statement issued in Abakaliki, the National Publicity Secretary of the organization, Prince Barr Uche Achi-Okpaga, who further noted that the incident was a “good plan” marred by poor execution, asked to know which paradise on earth the girls were kept so neat for three
The statement read: “The latest drama of the Dapchi school girls release is the height of serial and inglorious pathological deceit and hoax. In their bid to make unfounded and unthinkable comparisons (with the regime of Gooduck Jonathan) President Buhari and his hegemonic Fulani cabal become antithetic as they are contradictory.
“Apparently, in a hurried orchestra to display their high dexterity of quick response to the manipulated abduction (as against the snail speed approach of the then Jonathan’s regime) the “good plan” was marred by poor execution, over one hundred girls appearing in new and neat dresses with their big bags of different makes.
‘’The thought provoking questions are “Did all the girls dress for a religious or social outing shortly before their abduction? Were they allowed to bring their new clothes on abduction or were they taken to a boutique for their fine ‘uniforms’ before they were brought back?
“For the first time in history, instead of dropping them in an undisclosed point, the abductors brought back their captives amid cheers and jubilation from observers and even security operatives who were said to have been on their trail for three weeks now.”