By Sam Eyoboka
Mother of Leah Sharibu, kidnapped by Boko Haram, Mrs Rebecca Sharibu, yesterday pleaded with the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to help rescue her daughter from the clutches of Islamic insurgents.
On February 19, 2018, Leah Sharibu was taken from her school, Government Girls’ Science and Technical College. Dapchi, north-eastern Nigeria, along with 109 of her schoolmates.
Now aged 16, Leah is thought to be the only girl held by the extremist militants because she refused to convert from Christianity to Islam.
Marking the two-year anniversary of her kidnap at an event in Westminster, Leah’s mother, Mrs Rebecca Sharibu, said she was “constantly in pain” over her daughter’s abduction. Speaking in Hausa, which translated by Dr Gloria Puldu, head of Leah Sharibu Foundation set up in the 16-year-old’s name, Ms Sharibu asked the British government to prevail on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in her case.
She said: “I have come to plead with the UK, the US, all the nations to please hear me and help me out.
I am pleading with your government, please do whatever you can to get my daughter, Leah released.
“I want to plead directly with PM Boris Johnson that he should please help me to ask President Buhari to release my daughter. On Tuesday, my daughter, my only daughter was two years in captivity, and (President Buhari) has promised me that she would be released but she has not been released.”
Linked to the so-called Islamic State terror group, Boko Haram are known for mass abductions of schoolgirls and attacks in north-eastern Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Just over a month after the abduction, 104 of Leah’s schoolmates were released while five other girls were said to have died on the way. Mrs Sharibu, who travelled from Nigeria to the UK on Monday, asked the Nigerian President to intervene as he and the government had promised in September 2018.
She continued: “I need Leah back home and I need him (President Buhari) to set Leah free, just like the other girls were set free.
“The students who were taken along with Leah have been brought back to their parents and their parents do not know the pain we have been going through for two years, pains that cannot be described. So please, help us.”
Boko Haram prompted an international outcry after the 2014 attack on a boarding school in Chibok, where militants kidnapped 276 girls, some of whom are still being held by the group. Mrs Sharibu said she had only heard “rumours” about her daughter’s condition in captivity, but believed she was still alive as a healthcare worker who had been released reported hearing Leah was alive from another captive.
She said: “On a daily basis we hear Leah this, Leah that. We are in great pains.
“At times, when the stories come out, we feel so pained, we feel so terrible. So if I tell you that I am happy, I am telling you a lie. We are constantly in pain, all we desire is to have Leah back with us.”
Baroness Caroline Cox also spoke at the event to help launch the International Organisation for Peace and Social Justice’s Silent Slaughter campaign to raise awareness of violence in Nigeria.
The campaign has its own website which is set to go viral. It also has a hashtag #SilentSlaughter.
Pastor Ayo Adedoyin, Chief Executive of PSJ UK, said: “It is both shocking and deeply saddening that two years on from the brutal abduction and abuse of innocent girls in Nigeria, the Government in Abuja has failed to return Leah to her grieving family.
“Human trafficking, kidnapping, and murder are all on the rise as Boko Haram increasingly weaponises and utilises Islamic Fulani herdsmen.
”PSJ UK is working very hard to bring Leah back to her mother, as well as reduce and eventually stop any future such incidents.
“One way to do this is to bring the vital issue to the attention of the Nigerian Government, and by extension the British, French and American governments, all of whom have a deep connection with Nigeria. Threatening sanctions, reputational damage or foreign aid reductions are all possible ways to put this untrammelled violence at the top of the Nigerian agenda,” Pastor Adedoyin said.