Nigerian Archbishop Appeals for Release of Schoolgirl Kidnapped Three Years Ago

Christian girl kidnapped by Islamic militants still held after she refused to deny her faith.

By Magdalene Kahiu, ACI Africa

Three years after Leah Sharibu was abducted by Islamic militants from her school in northeastern Nigeria, the archbishop of Lagos has called on the country’s president to “do all in his power” to secure her release.

Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins said in a statement on Feb. 20 that “it is sad” the Nigerian schoolgirl is still being held three years after she was kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents.

Sharibu was among 110 girls abducted from a government girls’ science and technical school in Dapchi in Yobe State on Feb. 19, 2018. While most of the girls were released the following month, Sharibu, aged 14 at the time, was not freed for reportedly refusing to convert to Islam. Five other girls died while in captivity, according to reports.

Reports at the time indicated that Sharibu, a Christian, refused to recite the Islamic declaration and put on the hijab, despite the pleas of her classmates to pretend conversion. She was quoted as saying Islam was not her faith and she would not say she was Muslim.

Archbishop Adewale urged 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.”

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

Making reference to the assurances President Buhari give in March 2018 for Sharibu’s release, Archbishop Adewale said he regretted that “she along with others are still languishing in the hands of their abductors to 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 prelate said, adding, “one can only imagine the severe physical, emotional and psychological torture she and her parents have been going through all these years.”

Archbishop Adewale also called on the 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 various attacks and kidnappings in Nigerian schools.

Last week, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram militants raided a government secondary school in Kagara in Nigeria’s Niger State in the northeastern part of the country, kidnapping at least 20 teenage boys. One student was killed during the Feb. 17 early morning attack.

The militant group claimed responsibility for the Dec. 11, 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.

Feature image: Leah Sharibu, a Nigerian school girl, was kidnapped along with 109 others on  Feb. 19, 201. (Courtesy ACI Africa)

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ACI Africa

The Association for Catholic Information in Africa (ACI Africa), officially inaugurated on August 2019, is a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya, this media apostolate strives to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent. https://www.aciafrica.org/