It’s been four years since Nigerian schoolgirl Leah Sharibu was kidnapped by a Boko Haram splinter group.
In 2018, the Nigerian faction of terror group Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) abducted 110 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Dapchi, Yobe state.
Following negotiations, 104 girls were released a month later while Leah was kept in captivity for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.
Consequently, the group declared her a “slave for life”. The five remaining girls died.
“She did nothing wrong. It's not a criminal act be a Christian. But that's the only reason she was kept,” Illia Djadi Open Doors’ senior analyst for Freedom of Religion and Belief in Sub Saharan Africa told Premier.
“It's been 1,460 days. Imagine, just think if Leah Sharibu was your daughter, your sister, your relative… How would you feel? We don't have details about her living conditions, the only thing we can say is that we have good reason to believe that she's still alive,” he continued.
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.
A year later, rumours circulated that Leah was forced to convert and marry a top commander. A report said Leah delivered a baby boy but a spokesperson for the teenager’s family rejected the report.
According to Djadi, the Nigerian government has promised in several occasions to act to secure her release but they have been slow to act.
Earlier this year, the chief of defence staff, General Lucky Irabor reiterated the government’s promises to secure Leah’s release.
He told the Nigerian Television Authority that "plans and processes" were in place to free "not just Leah Sharibu but every other person held captive is released."
But for Djadi the general’s statement felt like “dejavu” as such statements have been said before but nothing has happened since her abduction.
“We are still waiting and it has been now for years,” Djadi told Premier.
“So far, the parents of Leah and others are still waiting to see any tangible action, “he continued.
He went on to encourage Christians to continue to pray for her release.
“Please keep praying for her parents, because this is a very traumatic event that they have been facing for four years now and let's keep praying for the national government to do the right thing, to keep their promise, to get her and others released.”