More appeals for freedom as Leah Sharibu spends 676 days in captivity
By Sam Eyoboka
LAGOS — Following the murder of 11 innocent Nigerian Christians on Christmas Day, 2019, as well as the persecution of Christians in some parts of Nigeria, National Christian Elders Forum, NCEF, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari and the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, should be held responsible for the audacity, expansion, and unbridled atrocities of Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, Boko Haram and herdsmen in the country.
This came as the stay in captivity of Leah Sharibu for over two years in the hands of the Boko Haram terror group has continued to draw local and international attention, with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, IFES, Regional Secretary for English and Portugese-speaking Africa and founder/convener, Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, calling on the Nigerian government to ensure that the teenager does not spend the new year in the den of the terror group.
READ ALSO:Give us Leah Sharibu as our Christmas gift ― Northern Christian elders tell Buhari(Opens in a new browser tab)
Blame Buhari, Sultan —NCEF
NCEF Chairman, Elder Solomon Asemota, SAN, in a statement said, the 11 affected Christians were abducted by ISWAP, a faction of Boko Haram, pointing out, that 13 men were shown in a video pleading for deliverance while 11 were eventually killed.
This came few days after the Sultan of Sokoto had said he was shocked by the claim of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, that Christians were being persecuted in the country.
NCEF lamented that: “Two of the captives were released because they are Muslims while the remaining 11 were presumably killed due to their Christian faith. Ten of the Christians were beheaded while the 11th was shot dead.
“Timing the gruesome murder of these innocent Christians to Christmas Day was a certain signal of the Islamic insurgents deliberately desecrating the day in which Christians worldwide marked the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and the central figure of the Christian faith. It was not only a heinous crime, but it was also provocative and insulting.
“More than any individual, President Buhari should be held responsible for the audacity, expansion, and unbridled atrocities of ISWAP, Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria. He not only deliberately created the atmosphere for Islamic insurgency to thrive in Nigeria he has adopted ‘repentant’ terrorists into the Nigeria Army.
“If President Buhari is sincere that Islamic terrorists are ‘godless, callous gangs of mass murderers’, he should immediately re-organize the National Security Units that are solely in the control of Muslims from the North of Nigeria in compliance with the Federal Character Principle in Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
“In addition, all the terrorists that have been assimilated into the Nigeria Army should be dismissed. At the most, they could be constituted into Civilian Task Force if they are willing to help combat terror in the land. No sensible government, anywhere in the world, adopts terrorists into its Army.
“Our suspicion is that the statement of President Buhari is for the benefit of United States of America which recently placed Nigeria on its Special Watch List (SWL). However, President Buhari has the opportunity to prove us wrong by ensuring that the murderous Fulani herdsmen from his ethnic group are arrested and prosecuted,” the Elders stated.
Mr. President, stand by your words
It continued: “NCEF will however, take President Buhari by his word that ‘We should, under no circumstance, let the terrorists divide us by turning Christians against Muslims.’ Presently Nigeria is divided under its conflict of ideologies which produced one country, two systems.
“The current distress in the country is caused by the conflict between Democracy and Shari’a ideologies. It is the Shari’a ideology that emboldens Islamic terrorists in the country and until it is dismantled as competing national ideology, the country will not know peace.
“President Buhari has done more than any leader in this country to inflame this conflict of ideologies. In its paper of December 11, 2019 titled: “Sowore Court Saga: Welcome to Shari’a,” the NCEF provided information that Nigeria is running under Shari’a ideology rather than democracy which President Buhari had sworn to uphold.
“We insist that the solution to the problem of Islamic terrorism in Nigeria is for democracy to remain the only national ideology as designed by the founding fathers of this country. If Mr. President is sincerely committed to the unity of Nigeria, he should promote democracy.
“NCEF is also not unaware of the statement credited to the Sultan of Sokoto that ‘Christians in Nigeria not persecuted.’ NCEF will want to conclude that the Sultan of Sokoto was misquoted as the statement coming from a traditional ruler of his stature would not be in accord with statesmanship.
“Denying the obvious under the circumstances could hardly be described as a suitable solution to problems threatening the corporate existence of the country.
“We will not want to link this statement with another statement of the Sultan in 2011 in Harvard, USA, in which His Eminence said: ‘I do not recognise any Nigerian Constitution and the only Constitution I recognize is the Koran’.
“This pregnant statement which outrightly rejected democracy and accepted Shari’a could easily be interpreted to have escalated the current Shari’a-induced religious insurgency and intolerance in Nigeria.
“NCEF implores both President Buhari and the Sultan of Sokoto, as Fulani Muslims, and leaders of the Islamic Ummah to open up dialogue with the rest of the country to resolve these problems caused by religious intolerance in Nigeria.
“Already, other Muslim countries in the world are relaxing their erstwhile hard Islamic stance in order to operate meaningfully in modern multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies. For example: Saudi Arabia has officially banned child marriage under 18 years. Sudan has apologized to Christians in the country. The Minister of Religious Affairs, Nasredin Mofreh, apologized to Sudanese Christians “for the oppression and harm inflicted on your bodies, the destruction of your temples, the theft of your property, and the unjust arrest and prosecution of your servants and confiscation of church buildings.
“The Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok of Sudan on Christmas Eve tweeted a photo with prominent activist Natalina Yacoub and said that he seeks to build a Sudan ‘that respects diversity and enables all Sudanese citizens to practice their faith in a safe and dignified environment. Sudan celebrated Christmas for the first time in 10 years.”
Buhari urged to secure Leah’s freedom
Para-Mallam called on President Buhari and others to do more to secure her release and others from Boko Haram’s captivity ahead of the new year, noting that it was unacceptable that Leah Sharibu should still be in captivity almost two years after because of her faith.
He said: “Christmas is a time of celebration but not for Leah Sharibu, the courageous Christian girl who unfortunately is spending her second Christmas in captivity. Christmas is a period for family reunion, fellowship and celebration in Africa and indeed around the world. People are right now celebrating but not everyone can celebrate.
“How can Leah celebrate Christmas in captivity? How can Leah’s parents celebrate? How can those of us who yearn to see Leah freed celebrate?”
Rev. Para-Mallam said feelers indicate that the Nigerian Government’s efforts have so far fallen short. “Leah is still in captivity nearly two years on. This is unacceptable with a government in place. The international community appears unconcerned about the plight of this 16-year-old innocent girl. Leah’s case is also a human rights issue and remains a justice issue. Her freedom of belief is being undermined because of her Christian faith.
“I urge all that we rise again and do more to see Leah freed from her Boko Haram captors as we enter 2020. Let’s work for Leah’s freedom, along with several others such as Alice Ngaddah, a young mother of two, Grace Tuka, Bitrus Zakka Bwallah and several unnamed others,” he prayed.
He noted that the conscience of the world needs to be roused once again to work in a tireless manner to see Leah and others freed.
“Where are the African Union, United Nations, European Union, and other global agencies, which care about humanity? With all your combined efforts and those of global leaders, I believe something positive can be done.
“It is inconceivable how the Nigerian Government keeps talking with little or no results so far to convincingly show Nigerians and the world that they are capable to bring Leah home to her parents. It’s up to the President to show this rather than tell.
“Tough talking does not set captives free, but smart and tough action does. Let’s not give up and surely, we must not give in also. Leah Sharibu as at December 25, 2019, has spent 674 days in captivity,” he added.
To the teenage captive, he urged her to be courageous, hoping that one day “you will be set free by the special grace of God. Your freedom will surely come.”