On February 19, 2018, Leah Sharibu amongst 110 other girls was kidnapped by Boko Haram Terrorist Group in Dapchi in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. After about thirty-one days in captivity, and upon the payment of an undisclosed sum of money by the Federal Government of Nigeria, 104 girls were released while Leah was held back because of her refusal to be forcibly converted to Islam by the terrorists. Five of the girls lost their lives while in captivity.
It is March 2019 and Leah is still in captivity. In the last week of February 2019, there were reports, albeit unconfirmed, that she might be dead. I hope that she is still alive because she is a hero who in the face of danger and persecution, decided not to be intimidated by terrorists. Many in her shoes, including me, would have caved.
The Nigerian government has had the challenge of dealing with the Boko Haram Terrorist Group for the past ten years, which group has been waging a war against the Government of Nigeria. States in the North-Eastern region of Nigeria have been the most affected by this insurgency. There have been mass abductions including the kidnap of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok Community in April, 2014, which girls have not been released till this day. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, including humanitarian aid workers such as Hauwa Leman while about 2,300,000 people have been displaced.
Efforts made by the Government of Nigeria to counter the unrest are hampered among other reasons by corruption in the security services and within some aid agencies. Armed conflict stories and experiences cannot even be imagined as they are harrowing and painful, especially for the women and the children in those areas.
I cannot fathom the pain and suffering of Leah in the hands of her captors or the agony of her parents as they hope that soon, their fifteen year old daughter will be set free. I admire the courage, and the physical and mental strength of this heroic fifteen year old girl and I hope that as we celebrate the International Women’s Day, the Federal Government of Nigeria, will take the necessary and adequate steps to ensure that all the girls in captivity, including Leah, are freed and that the terrorist group is not only defeated but that such groups, never spring up again.