Do All in Your Power to Secure Release of Leah Sharibu: Nigerian Archbishop to President

Leah Sharibu, Nigerian school girl kidnapped alongside 109 others on 19 February 2018
Credit: Courtesy Photo

Three years after Leah Sharibu was abducted from her school in Dapchi in Yobe State within Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, the Archbishop of Lagos has called on the country’s Head of State to “do all in his power … to secure her release.” 

In a Saturday, February 20 statement by the Director of Social Communications of Lagos Archdiocese, Fr. Anthony Godonu, Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins says “it is sad” that the Nigerian school girl is still in incarceration three years after she was kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents. 

Archbishop Adewale urges President Muhammadu Buhari to “do all in his power as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, the one from whom all other security agencies take their orders, to secure her release.” 

Leah is among the 110 girls abducted from the Government Girls' Science and Technical College (GGSTC) Dapchi in Yobe State by members of the Boko Haram militia on 19 February 2018. 

While most of the girls were released the following month, on 10 March 2018, Leah, aged 14 at the time of her kidnapping, did not regain her freedom for reportedly refusing to convert to Islam. Five other girls died while in captivity, according to reports.

Following the release of the 104 girls, President Buhari assured the people of God in the West African country that his government will not relent in efforts to bring Leah safely back home.

Making reference to the assurances President Buhari give in March 2018 for Leah’s release, Archbishop Adewale regrets that “she along with others are still languishing in the hands of their abductors till date.”

“We have been told that several efforts have been made to ensure her release, but we are yet to see them materialize,” the 61-year-old Nigerian Archbishop says, adding that “one can only imagine the severe physical, emotional, and psychological torture she and her parents have been going through all these years.”

In the February 20 statement issued by the Director of Social Communications of Lagos Archdiocese, Archbishop Adewale also calls on President Buhari-led government to work toward the release of other abducted students “and unite them once again to their already distraught families.”

Multiple reports indicate that Boko Haram has been responsible for attacks and kidnappings in Nigerian schools. Just last week, Gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram militants raided the Government Science Secondary School in Kagara in Nigeria’s Niger State in the North-Eastern part of the country, kidnapping at least 20 teenage boys.

One student was killed during the February 17 2 a.m. attack

The militant group claimed responsibility for the 11 December 2020 abduction of 300 boys from the Government Science School in Kankara, Katsina State, a territory covered by the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. The boys secured their released after a week in captivity. 

The Islamist militant group also claimed responsibility for the April 2014 abduction of 276 girls from their school in Chibok, Northeastern Nigeria. 100 of the girls are reportedly still missing.

In the February 20 message, Archbishop Adewale also acknowledges with appreciation the January 27 appointment of Service Chiefs and reminds them of “the enormous responsibility ahead of them, especially the need to win back the full confidence of Nigerians in the military.” 

The Local Ordinary of Lagos further urges the new Service Chiefs to take the fight against insurgents to a higher level by “buoying the morale of the officers and men of the force and to employ sophisticated intelligence techniques to identify and further decimate the Boko Haram members and the bandits terrorizing the country.”

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
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