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Christian Peace Entity Lauds Nigeria’s Renewed Efforts to Rescue Leah Sharibu

Leah Sharibu. Credit: CSW

UK-based human rights foundation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has lauded renewed efforts by Nigeria’s security forces to rescue Leah Sharibu, a young Nigerian woman kidnapped in 2018 by members of the Boko Haram militant group.

CSW made reference to reports that Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff, General Lucky Irabor, has given assurance that efforts are underway to secure the release of the young Nigerian woman and others held captive by armed non-state actors.

CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas noted that though belated, rescue efforts of Leah Sharibu and others languishing in captivity are welcome.

“CSW welcomes General Irabor’s assurance that efforts are underway to rescue Leah Sharibu and other captives. Action is long overdue, so we urge the Nigerian government to spare no effort in following through on these commitments,” Mr. Mervyn said in a Wednesday, January 12 report.

Leah Sharibu was 14 when Boko Haram militants kidnapped her alongside her 110 classmates at the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State. The girls were released about a month later apart from Leah.

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Leah has been acclaimed for having refused to convert to Islam as the terrorists demanded.

General Irabor reportedly assured Leah’s parents in a program on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Tuesday, January 11, that the young woman would be rescued.

During the Good Morning Nigeria interview on NTA, General Irabor also reportedly said he was “aware of plans and of course, processes that are in place to ensure that not just Leah Sharibu but every other person held captive is released.”

He also revealed that one of the Chibok Girls was rescued around three weeks earlier, saying, “I would like to reassure Nigerians and the world at large that the Federal Government, using the military, is working very hard to ensure that everyone that has been held captive regains their freedom.”

General Irabor also welcomed the January 5 designation of the armed groups operating in the country’s Northwest who were previously termed “armed bandits”, as terrorists.

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The designation, announced on 5 January in a government gazette which termed their activities “acts of terrorism and illegality,” means “the techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) [the armed forces] used in handling them certainly will have to change. Tagging them as terrorists also gives it a global disposition, a global form that will enable other key global actors to take certain important actions against them.”

The gazette also extends the designation to include “other similar groups in any part” of the country, and “especially in… the north-central region.”  

CSW reports that the newly designated groups, largely comprising men of Fulani ethnicity, have subjected predominantly Muslim Hausa farming communities in Northern Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara states “to a campaign of violence characterized by looting, abductions for ransom, rape, extortion, death, and destruction.”

The Christian entity says that over 30,000 of these heavily armed terrorists operate from forests in the six Nigerian States, living in 100 camps, each accommodating at least 300 men.

According to CSW, at least 200 people were killed and an estimated 10,000 were displaced between January 4 and 6 after 300 terrorists on motorcycles attacked around nine localities in the Rafin Danya, Barayar Zaki, Rafin Gero and Kurfa villages in the Anka and Bukkuyum Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Zamfara state.

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Reacting to these reported killings in an interview published Monday, January 10, the Archbishop emeritus of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese advocated for change explaining that over the past five years armed bandits have terrorized northwestern Nigeria, causing a great deal of damage. 

The terrorists “attack farmers’ fields, kill farmers and no one says anything. And then they started with kidnappings,” John Cardinal Onaiyekan was quoted as saying in the interview in Italian with Vatican News, adding, “We all weep for these victims.”

“There are still many victims of kidnappings, and their parents and relatives have no way of paying what is requested. And the government believes it cannot do anything,” the Nigerian Cardinal further said.

In their January 12 report, officials of the UK-based human rights foundation call on the international community to support the Nigerian government in the fight against terrorism.

“We urge the international community to assist the Nigerian government wherever possible as it tackles the terrorist threat in the country’s north-west and elsewhere, prioritizing the protection of vulnerable communities and holding perpetrators to account,” the CSW President says in the report.

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