Civil society organizations (CSOs) celebrated the 16th birthday of Dapchi school girl Leah Sharibu yesterday, who was kidnapped 449 days ago by Boko Haram terrorists.
Leah was one of 112 students of the Vocational School for Girls Government, Dapchi, Yobe State, who were kidnapped on 19 February 2018 by terrorists, who later freed girls, excluding the birthday girl for refusing to renounce her Christian faith .
The CSOs urged President Muhammadu Buhari to do more to get Sharibu released, and he said he should see his freedom of imprisonment as a gift of democracy for Nigerians, before starting his second term.
To celebrate her 16th birthday, the second in captivity, several organizations gathered at the unit source in Abuja and in the rest of the country, asked the government to guarantee the safe and fast return of Leah to her family and the Christian community . .
The founder, the Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, Reverend Godwin Para-Mallam, who called Buhari priority the revitalization of security, unemployment, poverty and the economy in his second term, said these were the engines of the abduction avalanche have been witnesses in the country especially in the north.
He said: “Unless the court says something otherwise, on the 29th of May our President Buhari is going to be sworn in for his second term. Nigerians have gone through a lot; they have endured a lot in the area of security.
“The number one priority as you move into your second term is to address the security challenges particularly in the northern part of Nigeria, the Middle Belt, the North-east, North-west; but of course there are pockets of security challenges in other parts of the country.
“The economy, the poverty, the unemployment; these are very serious issues that in themselves generate other challenges for our nation. It will be helpful if you give attention to that.
“The whole question of religion tolerance is a reality in our nation and of course you need to do more as a father of a nation to unite Nigerians and Nigeria together during your second term and I will ask Mr. President: ‘Will it be possible for you to give Leah Sharibu as a gift to this nation by working and securing her release before you are sworn in as President on 29th of May 2019?
“That is the appeal; that is our heart; and people have cried, Mr. President. Give us a gift, set Leah Sharibu and others who are in captivity free.”
In an emotional speech, the Founder, Mercy Ade-Davies Foundation, Prof. Funmi Adesanya-Davies, called on government to secure the speedy release of Leah from captivity, just the same way it was able to secure the release of a Muslim, who was held in Saudi Arabia for alleged drug peddling.
She said: “Leah was the only girl retained because she is a Christian and refused to denounce her faith. Spite to Leah Sharibu is spite to me; that means I am not safe as a northern Nigerian Christian woman.
“Releasing Leah Sharibu to us is a mark that Christian community in Nigeria is same as Muslim community. We want to ask the government: Are we all not equal, don’t we have the same rights, and are we all not Nigerians?
“Our hearts are broken, we are depressed, we are sad; we are unhappy; release of Leah Sharibu is a sign to this nation and the entire globe that the Christian community is acceptable; but not releasing her is a sign of a very bad omen and this bad omen must be stopped