204 Days in Captivity: Leah’s Ordeal as a Constitutional Burden on the Federal Government of Nigeria
When Section 38 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right talks about the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, both charters were simply reaffirming and recognizing the inalienable rights of all Nigerians in particular and humans in general, to freely belong and practice their religion of choice, alone or in company of others.
However, that dignity, worth and religious freedom given by the Nigerian Constitution and the UDHR were expressively breached when on the night of Monday 19, February 2018, Boko Haram terrorists marched unchallenged into Government Girls Science College Dapchi, Yobe State and abducted 110 girls. It was the same manner of violent abduction with the 276 Chibok girls in April 2014. Gratefully, 103 of the Chibok girls have been released but 173 are still in forceful captivity,widely believed to have been converted to Islam – against their wish and in breach of their rights to religious freedom.
Also, the Abu Musab Al-Barnawi-led faction of Boko Haram, responsible for the abduction of the Dapchi School Girls have also released 104 girls on 21 March 2018 but held back 15-year-old Leah Sharibu because of her refusal to convert from Christianity to Islam. Five were said to have died on their way out of Dapchi on the night of the abduction.
September 6, 2018, makes it 200 days that Leah is still being held by terrorists because of her refusal to succumb to the threats to change her religion. Her right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution on all its citizens has been breached – deliberately and maliciously. Her continued captivity in the hands of her abductors even with the might of the Federal Government behind her is a loud but sad reminder of how religion in Nigeria kept being used by some for division, coercion and an abuse of parts of the Nigerian Constitution.
Leah’s suffering because of her religion now highlights the urgent quest for a more egalitarian society anchored on true freedom and equity in Nigeria. She has become a challenge to those who have been silenced in the face of the evil vulgarity that Boko Haram symbolizes while under the grip of religious extremism. From the clutches of her captors; she now speaks to Nigeria’s moral consciousness on the need for a reinvigorated determination toward a free, fair and just society for all.
Her parents and siblings are also psychologically suffering under the breaching of Leah’s rights and like her mother said, the might of the Federal Government has let them down as citizens of Nigeria. And unfortunately, their suffering would continue until Leah returns to them.
CSWN is still baffled at the manner of the ‘back door channels’ negotiation for the release of the 104 girls that didn’t insist on the whole girls and not a part. It should have been all the girls or none. By agreeing to receive the rest of the girls while leaving behind Leah because of her religion betrays the Nigeria Government insensitivity amidst it citizen’s cultural and religious diversity and have failed in Respecting,Protectin,Fulfiling the Religious Right of Leah and others that are still in captivity.
Though a proof-of-life video of Leah came out recently CSWN, however, urge the Federal Government to prioritise the return of Leah and others held in captivity because of their religious and ethnic differences, to their community and parents as a corrective effort in the restoration of their fundamental human rights. Leah’s continued incarceration against her will is a moral burden on the Federal Government that we hope would spur them into getting her back within the shortest time. We encourage that the same back channels effort used in getting the other girls back according to Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, should be explored further to get Leah and others back.
We in CSWN, pursuing the vision of an equitable and peaceful society further urge all men and women of goodwill to rise up and echo the cry for the quick release of Leah, the Chibok girls and all those in unlawful and dehumanizing captivity that has breached their constitutional right and privileges.
CSWN pleads with the Nigerian Security agencies to improve their security strategies around vulnerable institutions like schools so as to avoid having such embarrassing and deadly incidences on soft targets.Leah Sharibu’s parents Nathan and Rebecca and her younger brother Donald have been waiting for her to return home for 204days .Leah should be with her classmates right now, but instead she was snatched from her school and is being denied not only her Religious Right but her Right to Education.
Join CSW between 9am on September 12 in 200 hours of prayer for her freedom! https://www.csw.org.uk/200hours