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Graphic details of Leah Sharibu’s life in last six years; protesters demand her release in Kaduna

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Protesters in Kaduna State on Tuesday have demanded the immediate release of Ms. Leah Sharibu and other abducted students still in the custody of bandits and terrorists in the northern part of the country.

The protest comes as a detailed situation report on Leah was issued from the United Kingdom by The Revd Dr. Gideon Para-Mallam, an advocate for her release in the last six years.

He states: “From the 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped on February 19th 2018, Leah is now a 21-year-old grown woman on May 14th 2024. Today is Leah’s Birthday, sadly in captivity.

1. It is extremely disappointing and heart breaking that six years on we are still talking about Leah in captivity. Leah ought to have been released by now but here we are. In a sense, one must really ask, is the whole nation of Nigeria not in captivity? Jesus practiced an important principle in his life and ministry and that is the principle of the One percent (1%). This was in the parable of the lost sheep when the shepherd-owner at the end of a day’s outing found out that 99 sheep were present and discovered one was missing. He left all and went in search of the One (1) until he found that single sheep. Shouldn’t President Ahmed Bola Tinubu go all out to secure the release of Leah and others still in Boko Haram’s captivity? Shouldn’t our First Lady, a mother, a former Senator and a dynamic woman, not take up the case of Leah and other women and girls in captivity: Christians and Muslims and nudge her husband to act in securing their freedom? This illustrative story in the bible showcases the principle of care, accountability and social justice for all. Neglecting Leah almost six years plus in captivity by the Nigerian government and the strange silence of global community is unfathomable. Leah was kidnapped along with 110 other school girls from the Dapchi Girls Secondary School in Yobe State on February 19th 2018, by Boko Haram’s ISWAP faction, three years into the Buhari’s government in Nigeria and two years after their split with the main Boko Haram group led by the late Abubakar Shekau. About one month later, all the girls were released through negotiations with the Islamic terrorist group, by Nigeria’s Federal government. All were released but NOT Leah Sharibu. Why? All the kidnapped girls were converted to Islam but 14-year-old Christian girl Leah Sharibu chose not to convert but remained faithful to her Christian belief. Her Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) was violated and today she is still in captivity because of her Christian faith.

2. People have asked specific questions; people have speculated and people are concerned about Leah’s well-being. Here’s what we know. From all available records and other inside sources, a video of Leah released in October of 2018 by Boko Haram, six months into captivity, we heard Leah’s voice directly speaking from captivity. She had appealed to the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria to act to rescue her by negotiating with the terrorists. It confirmed Leah was alive. We have bits and pieces of news back in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and in 2023 including other proof which for security reasons I won’t go into here. Let me ask that we keep hope alive and continue to pray that one day, Leah will come out of Boko Haram’s captivity. Indeed, not only Leah but several other Christian women girls along with some of their Muslims still in captivity against their will, regain their freedom.

3. Leah’s current update in captivity from what we know to be the near- accurate situation: First, Leah was kept as a captive and later sold into slavery after she was returned to captivity on that March 2018. She was tricked into believing that if she converts, she will be set free. As a 14-year-old girl living under very difficult conditions, she was the only Christian left in captivity, separated and subjected to psychological and emotional torture along with hard labour, she had no choice and was forcibly converted. It was a trick, instead of freedom, she was sent to stay as a slave-wife to the son of late Mohammed Yusuf, the first leader of Boko Haram killed during President Umar Musa Yaradua’s government. Even in captivity, Leah continued to show her independence as a Christian and was not cooperating and willing to play both the role of a wife or slave. He (her husband) got angry and sold her off to an older man who had other wives. It was this elderly man who first impregnated Leah Sharibu. Leah still refused the conditions of living with him and was divorced and released after giving birth to a baby girl. Leah then stayed in the same house with Alice Ngaddah, a married  mother of three. Alice was the Christian the Unicef Nurse woman captured by the same ISWAP group on March 1st 2028, two weeks after the kidnap of Leah and others. Alice had already allegedly converted and the main reason was to get Alice as an older Christian woman now converted and married off to a senior Boko Haram leader back in 2019, to convince Leah, and other Christian girls later kidnapped to be compliant and accept their fate. Leah still refused and was divorced by this older man husband. Later, Leah was married off to a younger Boko Haram Military Commander and in 2021 she was pregnant with her second child, a boy. But on December 31st 2022, Leah’s husband was killed in battle during a fierce factional fighting between the two Boko Haram’s factions. ISWAP had actually tricked Shekau’s group into attending a peace meeting so they could reconcile and fight as one against the Nigerian State, but later surrounded Shekau and his team. Shekau had a suicide vest on and refused to be humiliated by ISWAP fighters and chose to blow himself up. Sources suggested that Leah’s ISWAP Commander husband was present at the time, hence the revenge mission by Shekau’s faction which led to his own death in battle in December, 2022. Before his death, Leah was already pregnant with her third child and she gave birth to a baby girl by April 2023. After a few months, sometimes in August 2023, she was married off again to another top official of Boko Haram suspected to be the Chief Judge of the ISWAP factional insurgents. A fuller picture will become clearer with specifics with time. For the protection of sources, Leah and others still in captivity, this statement won’t go any further. Oh, that Leah will be set free!!!

4. Failed Promises: Regrettably, President Buhari spent five additional years in power without securing the release of Leah and other girls in captivity. He did promise Leah’s mother, in my presence, during a phone conversation October 2018, with Leah’s mother, where only four of us were present in the room that he will do everything to bring Leah out and deliver her to her parents but until he left power in May 2023 last year, nothing, sadly, happened of that promise. Leah’s mother had visited and stayed in our home at the time. This call took place during a major global advocacy The Peace Foundation organized under the foundation’s advocacy stream; to make a plea for the freedom of Leah Sharibu. A former Governor, now a Senator, played a compassionate role in reaching the President, when I took Leah’s mother to meet him and his wife. God bless this former Governor. We each play our part but God will do the rest. Leah shall be free one day. Let’s keep hope alive.

5. Government’s Silence: The present government of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu has been totally silent so far on Leah Sharibu’s matter and other girls in captivity. Sometimes silence is golden one would like to assume. Are they working to free her or ignoring Leah’s case?

It’s left to be seen but The Para-Mallam Peace Foundation has reached one top leader and few others in government to make a case for Leah. Who knows? Oh, that Leah may be free. This is my heart cry in prayer daily and knocking on several doors both local and global. Added to this pain is this one fact that it is not only Leah’s parents who are psychologically and emotionally traumatized but several other parents. They are: Leah’s parents; Mr Nathan and Mrs Rebecca Sharibu, and Donald, her brother. The parents of Lilian Gyang Daniel (Mr. David and Mrs Ruth Kwa), Praise Austine parents and her siblings, Patience parents and family and several others time and space would not allow me to list. Our Peace Foundation is in touch with them. Their daily sorrow, agony and state of mental health are better imagined.

6. National and International Appeal for Leah and others: The Church in Nigeria through CAN believes in prayer and seeks a peaceful resolution of this painful matter, no doubt a clear case of targeted persecution of Christians in Nigeria. The Church as a whole, individual groups such as the LEAH Foundation; CWEENS; US Nigeria Law Group; PSJ, Nigeria and UK; ICON; CLASFON; The Para-Mallam Peace Foundation and several other groups and concerned individuals both at home and abroad are not only praying but also advocating for the freedom of Leah Sharibu and several others, including Muslims, in all forms of captivity in Nigeria. Nigerians need to unite across faiths to raise their voices in advocacy to free Leah and others in captivity. We are in this together. Persecution to one is person to all. The Church in Nigeria prays and wishes to encourage the global Church to remember Leah and act in their nations, by any means possible, to get their governments to reach out to the Nigerian government through diplomatic circles to see that Leah is set free along with several Christian girls who are forced to convert to Islam and married off as sex slaves to Boko haram Commanders, fighters and top officials.

7. Conclusion: As we mark Leah’s 21st Birthday, the Gideon & Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation has partnered with LEAH Foundation, CWEENS, and PSJ UK on a virtual global prayer cry to remember Leah Sharibu in captivity. The focus of the prayer was to pray for her release and countless other women and girls in captivity, including Muslims, who are held against their will.”

Meanwhile, according to a Channels Television report, during the protest held at the ECWA Good News Church in the Kaduna State capital to celebrate the 21st birthday of Leah Sharibu, the  group criticised the alleged government’s helplessness in rescuing the lone schoolgirl, seven years after she was kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists in Yobe state.

On Tuesday, the group of Christians under the aegis of Christian Solidarity Worldwide Nigeria,  staged a peaceful protest in Kaduna State to call on the government to intensify action to rescue  Leah Sharibu.

The Convener of the group, Revered Yunusa Nmadu, said the protest was to first of all commemorate the 21st birthday of Leah Sharibu and to also draw the government’s attention to the fact that the girl is still with her abductors seven years after she was kidnapped.

“We have all come out to commemorate the 21st birth of Leah Sharibu who has become the face of this campaign and many other campaigns for safe schoolchildren. We therefore want to wish her a happy birthday even in captivity.

“But then, we also want to entreat the government that they must do the needful. Nigeria is ebbing out. Nigeria is dying. We are almost surrendering to insecurity and bandits, kidnappers, and all sorts of evil people in our land. It is time to stop,” he said.

“Our children must go to school. We must stay safe in our homes. Our homes are no longer safe. Our roads are no longer safe. Government must come to terms with what is happening in the country and they must save the lives of the populists

“We voted you in for security but what we get is insecurity. Therefore, we asked and we spoke this time to the President of the country, Bola Tinubu. Please, up your game, and safe lives. People are dying in their hundreds every day. This is unacceptable to us as citizens of this country. Security is our right.

“Therefore, we hope that the government will listen and do the needful. Safe our schools. Safe our girls. It is not a crime to go to school because they have chosen to go to school. It is the responsibility of the government to secure our schools and protect the lives and property of the citizens of this country.”

He called on the Nigerian government under President Bola Tinubu to do the needful in rescuing Sharibu and other abducted schoolgirls still languishing in terrorist dens across the north.

According to him, it is unacceptable that Nigerians are no longer safe in their homes as they are being abducted willingly by bandits from their homes.

On his part, the Secretary of the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Emmanuel Okunlola, appealed to the government to protect the country and its citizens.

“Nigeria must be protected. Nigeria must be secured. it’s the primary responsibility of the government to protect lives and property.

“Therefore, we called on all state government, the federal government, and the National Security adviser to rise to the occasion, and expedite action on the release of our abducted girls. This is the only thing that will make Nigeria the giant brother of Africa, not in an unsafe environment or unsecured environment. Let the government do the needful so that we can be peaceful in Nigeria,” he said.

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