•I forgive her captors for they don’t know what they are doing — Leah’s Mother
Leah Sharibu, Christian student of Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, is today spending her 126th day in Boko Haram captivity as a downcast mother says the family will relocate from Dapchi as soon as the teenager is released.
Boko Haram Islamists had stormed the school, 100 kilometres (63 miles) northwest of Yobe State capital, Damaturu, on Monday, February 19, 2018, and headed to the dormitory which housed 710 students at the state-run boarding school, abducting 110 students.
After about a month of desperate search for the schoolgirls, the al-Barwani faction of Boko Haram drove into Dapchi in convoy of eight trucks and dropped off 104 of the abducted girls and a teenage boy.
Reports said the Boko Haram operatives, who escorted the 105 abducted schoolgirls and the boy back to Dapchi on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 morning, spent about 20 minutes preaching to the schoolgirls before leaving without hurting anybody.
An international aid worker, who witnessed the return of the schoolgirls, said the Boko Haram members that brought the girls were fully armed.
“They were confident and unfazed. As they ordered the girls to alight from the vehicles, they gathered them in one place and held the brief preaching session”, the aid worker said.
“They asked them to return to the path of Allah and stop the pursuit of Western education. They told them that they released them because they wanted to give them another chance of returning to Allah.”
Though the Federal Government claimed that no ransom was paid, sources said that part of the deal with government was for Boko Haram to return the girls and leave town, while security agencies were ordered to stay away as the group moved the girls and there must be no form of exchange of fire or any act that could jeopardise the situation.
It was after the militants’ audacious and uninterrupted retreat that the nation was told that the Boko Haram insurgents had released 104 Muslim students, five of the girls died on their way to captivity while then 14-plus-year old Leah Sharibu was denied freedom because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.
Embarrassed by the outcry that government staged the Boko Haram abduction and release of the over 100 Dapchi schoolgirls, President Muhammadu Buhari assured that his administration will not relent in its efforts to bring Leah safely back home to her parents as it had done for the other girls.
After 126 days in Boko Haram captivity, Mrs Rebecca Sharibu, the mother of Leah, is appealing to the Federal Government to free her only daughter from captivity.
The 40-year-old primary school teacher, who hails from Hawk Local Government Area of Borno State, reminded Buhari to honour his pledge to free the girl.
“I appeal to the Federal Government to fulfil their pledge and release my daughter to me safe and unhurt so that we can live our lives as one closely knit family,” she said, adding that she was looking to the day she would open her arms to welcome her daughter back.
Asked if Leah’s resolve might have been broken and possibly defiled and impregnated, she responded, “What can I do? I can’t do anything. I will still welcome her home with both arms because she is my daughter. Our main concern is for her to be alive to join the rest of the family.”
Will you forgive her captors, she was asked. “I forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. We are praying for them also. I am praying to God for them to realize what they are doing and repent because they don’t know what they are doing,” she answered, stressing that she was just waiting for the return of her daughter. “I don’t want to stay here again. As soon as I can set my eyes on my daughter, we will relocate from here.”
In a telephone interview, Mrs. Sharibu, who has been distressed as a result of the February 19 and March 21 events in Dapchi, told our correspondent that life had played a poetic trick on her family as everybody appeared to have turned their backs on her. Asked if there has been any new development since after the 15th birthday of her daughter on May 14, 2018, she said simply: “No news!”
Besides her initial health challenges as a result of her shock, Mrs Sharibu is lonesome especially as the number of sympathizers who visit occasionally has thinned out.
“Nobody has visited us thus far. Nobody from any governmental organization – federal, state or local government – has come. Even the Principal of the school where my daughter is a student has not deemed it fit to visit us up till now,” she stated.
Also responding to our inquiry after four months of his daughter’s captivity, 45-year-old Mr. Nathan Sharibu, who hails from Kinging in Hung Local Government Area of Adamawa State, said since Leah and her 109 schoolmates were abducted, they were yet to get any word from government regarding the incident.
He corroborated what her wife said: “Nobody from the Federal Government, state government or local government has visited my family since the incident happened in February. Even the school from where they abducted my daughter, the authorities have not deemed it fit to come to my house and say something to us concerning our daughter.
“But I really appreciate how the Church of God is handling the issue. I appreciate how they have responded, and they are praying for us day and night. Even some Muslim brothers and the community people are daily visiting to encourage us on what has happened and praying for us.
“Besides such visits, nobody from the federal, state or local government level has considered it necessary to pay a solidarity visit to us. Even the school authorities, there’s no word from them”.
He appealed to the Federal Government to hasten the process of Leah’s return so that she could be reunited with the family.
According to him, the delay in releasing the only Christian girl among the abducted girls after government had pledged to ensure her urgent release was worrisome.