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World News

3 years since Nigerian Christian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu was kidnapped

by Tola Mbakwe

Friday marked three years since Leah Sharibu was abducted by the Nigerian faction of terror group Boko Haram.

Leah is one of the 110 girls snatched on their school in Dapchi, by the Boko Haram group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in February 2018.

The next month, following negotiations by the Nigerian government, ISWAP returned 104 of the 110 girls they abducted. However, Leah wasn't among them. She wasn't released because she refused to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam in exchange for her freedom.

Ayo Adedoyin is the CEO of international charity Peacebuilding and Social Justice (PSJ), which works on advocacy in Nigeria.

He told Premier Christian News, the Nigerian government has not done much to secure her release.

“Well, the Nigerian government say that they are doing stuff, but we don't see it,” he said.

“I understand that one of the government ministers has now been in touch with the family and have kind of given them some sort of reassurances. I must say, though, that the assurances give very little comfort, because they don't get backed up with any action.”

In a clip released by a Nigerian news agency The Cable in August 2018, Leah, who is seen in pictures wearing a hijab, asked for help in the Nigerian Hausa language.

"I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation," she said.

"I also plead to the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives. I am begging you to treat me with compassion, I am calling on the government, particularly, the president, to pity me and get me out of this serious situation. Thank you."

Adedoyin said it will take an “act of God” for Leah to return home safely.

“Our call is for people to raise up their voices in intercession because God has a million and one ways to make this happen," he said.

"But in the natural, we can't really see how we're going to make a breakthrough on this.”

In September 2018 ISWAP executed one of Leah's fellow female hostages and issued a final ultimatum on her life. She was eventually spared, but only after the group executed another female hostage and declared that Leah was to be their slave for life, along with abducted humanitarian worker, Alice Loksha Ngaddah.

In January 2020 one of five aid workers abducted by ISWAP said that Leah is alive and well. Jennifer Ukambong Samuel, who works for Action for International Medical Alliance (ALIMA), was abducted on 22nd December 2019 and later released.

Ms Ukambong informed Nigerian media that while she had not seen Leah she had been informed by Mrs Ngaddah, whom she reportedly visited in her "house in the forest" near Lake Chad that the girl is alive, well and held in an undisclosed location. Ms Ukambong revealed that Mrs Ngaddah, who is now called Halima, provides injured terrorists with medical treatment, and had asked for prayer for both of them, adding that she had left everything to God.

In February 2020, Leah's mother joined a protest outside the Nigerian High Commission in London, organised by persecution watchdog CSW, to mark the second anniversary of her daughter's abduction. She also submitted a signature with more than 12,000 signatures calling on the Nigerian government to do everything in its power to secure her release.

The Nigerian president's office has stated that Leah is still alive and the government is continuing negotiations with ISWAP to secure her release.

Leah, who turns 18-years-old in May, has been deemed a major inspiration to many Christians.

Adedoyin said: “To be able to stand up for your faith in a way like that is a major challenge to my faith, personally, and I'm sure to that of thousands of other people around the world. It has given me cause to just really look at my life and reconsider what I would do.”

PSJ and other religious freedom charities continue to raise awareness of Leah’s situation in terms of pressuring the UK government to intervene and collaborating with the Nigerian government.

PSJ will also host a virtual event in honour of Leah on Friday evening to discuss the situation and pray for progress.

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