Leah Sharibu at 16: Sadly, it doesn’t look like the government wants her back

It’s Leah Sharibu‘s 16th birthday today.

Leah, the only teenager yet to be returned among the 105 students kidnapped on February 19, 2017, by the Islamic West African Province (ISWAP), a faction of Boko Haram during its raid on the Government Girls Science and Technology College, Dapchi-Yobe, has been in captivity for the last 449 days, celebrated her 15th birthday in captivity and no one has heard anything concrete from the corridors of power about getting her back.

Leah’s 16th birthday coincides with the whirlwind of insecurity currently being experienced in the land — in the forms of banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and herdsmen attacks, also with little success in spite of the effort of security agencies and this is a great opportunity to remind government of its constitutional responsibility of securing the lives and properties of citizens and non-citizens within our borders.

The fact that Leah a prisoner of faith, is held back by terrorists for refusing to convert to Islam as condition for her release, has brought up all kinds of accusations but the key issue remains that the destiny of a promising child as Leah must never be exchanged for slavery.

The pains associated with the absence of this brave woman is made complex each day with the deafening silence of the federal government as reflected in the words of Nathaniel Sharibu during the one year anniversary of his daughter in captivity.

“I have to tell Nigerians that the thing (Leah’s abduction) was very, very painful. I am totally discouraged due to the type of situation because it is one year on the dot today since my daughter was abducted and nothing was done. They (Federal Government) are just promising, promising, promising, promising, but nothing I see on ground. I am even confused now. All the family is in confusion now.”

“Almost every night, I see Leah in my dream. I saw Leah coming to me, saying ‘Daddy, how are you?’ As we used to joke with her, I used to deal with her. Unfortunately, when I woke up, I see no Leah.”

Most worrisome is learning that he never heard from the government, except in 2018 when President Muhammadu Buhari called his wife, Rebecca Sharibu, on phone and assured her that he would do his possible best to see to the release of Leah.

“He delegated three ministers to my house, the same October last year, to assure us that they were doing their possible best to see that Leah returns safely. From there, I did not hear anything from them and I did not see any action from them. They are just doing their politics.”

The Nigerian government has also shown signs of failure to properly secure secondary schools in the hot beds of the northeast not to talk of strengthening intelligence-gathering to forestall future attacks by Boko Haram which it claims to have ‘technically defeated’ or even other criminal-minded groups. This is butressed by the May 1st 2019 attempt by bandits to kidnap students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Moriki in Zuru Local Government Area of Zamfara, though five people were reported missing after the attack.

Amongst many things, we must have at the back of our minds that the continuous negligence of government toward Leah’s plight is a testament to the love we have for the upcoming generation and the hope they should have in the ability of this country to stand up for them when it matters most. We certainly cannot afford them believing otherwise.

What really is the government doing to have Leah released?

The last we heard from the Federal Government is the dismissal of a social media report in February on the reported death of Leah, tagging it as fake and a ploy by political opposition to tarnish the administration’s image ahead of the general elections, but there are speculations in the last 24 hours that ISWAP may in the coming months be considering exchanging abducted UNICEF nurse Alice Luksha and Leah Sharibu for over 20 of their members and spouses held by Nigerian and Tchadian governments.

Added to this, the 2019 National Children’s day is days away and the current administration will soon be settling for a second term in office, government must ensure that it makes the rescue of the girl a number one priority and make use of all available resources to bring her back to her parents.

More than ever, we insist that the life of every citizen is in this country must be taken seriously.

Happy Birthday Leah. We love you.

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