Buhari: Leah Sharibu’s Freedom Hindered by Fear of Safe Movement

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Promises not to rest until Dapchi, Chibok girls return

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday in Abuja that various efforts were being made to ensure that Leah Sharibu and the remaining Chibok girls were freed and reunited with their families.

Buhari stated this at the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the kidnap of 276 girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno State, by Boko Haram.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as saying he had not forgotten the promise he made to the parents of the Chibok girls before the 2015 general election to ensure the release of their daughters.

The 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram from their school hostel in April 2014. While 107 of them have regained freedom through negotiations by the federal government, the remaining 169 are still in captivity.

Another set of 110 schoolgirls from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, were kidnapped by Boko Haram on February 19, 2018. But while 104 of them were freed on March 21 same year, Leah, the only Christian girl among the abductees, was held back by Boko Haram following her refusal to renounce her Christian faith.

There has been a global campaign for her release. Buhari called her mother, Mrs. Rebecca Sharibu, last year to assure her that he would do all within his power to ensure that her daughter was rescued.

In the statement yesterday, Buhari explained that whereas progress had been made in the efforts to rescue Leah, her return had been hindered by the fear of her safe transport by the insurgents in view of the heavy military presence in areas where Boko Haram had previously left. He said the military could not jeopardise the security of the entire North-east in a bid to allay the fear of Boko Haram.

The president promised that Leah would be freed as soon as arrangements on her safe transport was concluded.

The statement said, “Diverse efforts are being intensified to secure the release of the Chibok girls, along with all hostages in Boko Haram captivity, including Leah Sharibu, who was kidnapped from her school, Science Secondary School, Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 19, 2018.

“On Leah Sharibu’s abduction, the interlocutors have reported encouraging progress so far. The report reaching us says her return to her family has unfortunately been hindered by the fear of the militants.

“They worry that heavy military presence in areas where they previously moved about freely could affect their safety after they return her to the government.

“At the same time, the military cannot jeopardise the security of the entire north-eastern region by halting their operations to accommodate Boko Haram’s fears. Leah Sharibu will be reunited with her family as soon as any conclusions are reached on a number of options being considered for her safe transportation.”

Regarding the Chibok girls, Buhari said he had not forgotten them in Boko Haram captivity. He recalled that it was the promise he made to their parents prior to the 2015 general election that prompted the people of Chibok to overwhelmingly vote for him at the election.

He also said he had assured their parents at the beginning of his ascension to power in 2015 that he would ensure the freedom of their daughters, pledging that aside the 107 already rescued, he would not rest until the remaining girls are freed.

The statement added, “President Muhammadu Buhari would like to remind the parents of the schoolgirls of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State that he has still not forgotten their daughters who were kidnapped from their dormitory five years ago (April 14, 2014).

“He promised the parents when he met them, at the beginning of his first term as president, that he would bring their daughters home.

“He is aware that this promise he made is the main reason the people of Chibok voted overwhelmingly for him in the February elections, and although his government has so far succeeded in bringing back 107 of the girls, the President will not rest until the remaining are reunited with their families. President Buhari assures the parents that his administration is still on the matter.”

The statement also said the president explained the challenges confronting the military in the battle against insurgency, and saluted the abducted schoolgirls whom he said had already triumphed.

The president sent his greetings to the 106 Chibok girls schooling at American University of Nigeria, Yola, and encouraged them to remain focused so that they can serve as inspirations to other girls across the world that the battles facing the girl-child can be surmounted.

Shehu also said Buhari sent his best wishes to other Chibok girls schooling in other places, including Kauna Yaga Bitrus, whom she said had performed excellently in the United States.

According to the statement, “The success of the Nigerian military in subduing Boko Haram is evidenced by the large numbers of militants who have surrendered recently, especially in neighbouring Cameroon and Niger. A similar mass surrender of militants is expected to happen soon in Nigeria.

“While Nigerian military operations are ongoing, the government is also engaging with the militants, but the talks have been affected by the factionalisation of Boko Haram – with one group adopting a hardline attitude and intensifying attacks on Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, and another group engaging with the government for peaceful resolution.

“President Buhari also uses this opportunity of the commemoration of the Chibok tragedy to commend the girls, now women, who have triumphed over it all. He sends special greetings to the 106 girls sponsored by the Nigerian government to continue their studies at the American University of Nigeria, Yola. He encourages them to stay focused on becoming women who will inspire girls in Nigeria and around the world to triumph over the daily battles they face in a world that is often unfair to the girl-child.

“President Buhari also extends his best wishes to Chibok girls in other schools in Nigeria and around the world. He sends special congratulations to Kauna Yaga Bitrus, who has excelled beyond expectations in her college in Maine, USA, and who is soon to receive a special ‘Against All Odds Award’ from her school.”