Community members in Dapchi, Yobe State have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to pressure Boko Haram into releasing Leah Sharubu, the only schoolgirl that was not released by the terrorists after 110 were kidnapped one month ago.
The schoolgirls had been kidnapped by the terrorists on February 19, 2018, during an attack on their school but 104 were released on Wednesday, March 21 to wild jubilation in Dapchi.
One of the released schoolgirls, Khadija Grema, told Channels Television on Wednesday that five of her schoolmates died of heart attack and stress as a result of the long trip while the terrorists have held on to 15-year-old Leah for religious reasons.
“There’s one of the girls that wasn’t freed because she is a Christian, she was held back,” Khadija said.
Leah’s father, Nata Sharubu, was the first to speak about the issue on Wednesday when he disclosed during an interview that his daughter was not released by the terrorist group because she refused to renounce her Christian faith like they demanded.
According to a report by Premium Times, while the community is openly grieving the death of the five girls, they are also desperate for Leah’s return, as community members faulted the terrorist group’s philosophy of forcing Islam on the young girl.
Dori Kadau, a community leader, told Leah’s parents that they have informed Bashir Manzo, who is the chairman of the abducted girls’ parents, to press President Buhari about the teenager’s safe return.
He said, “We thank the Federal Government of Nigeria for releasing most of our daughters from the abduction of Boko Haram, but the government must understand that one of our daughters is still being held by the insurgents.
“Today we mourn the death of five of our daughters after they were abducted by Boko Haram while pursuing their education in a public school.
“As humans we have no means of reversing their painful deaths even though they were supposed to be under the care and protection of government, but our sorrow will know no bound if one of the girls who was held back based on the religion she practices is not brought back to us.
“We in Dapchi, believe that Islam is built on a foundation of freewill, where no one is compelled the religion except if he or she choses to. That Boko Haram decided to force Leah to become Muslim, was strange and unheard of. If the federal government claims it facilitated the release of our girls, we see no reason why they have to accept a situation where one of them is profiled base on her religion.”
While commiserating with Leah’s parents during a visit to their home with other community members, Kadau said, “We can’t accept any deal on our girls without one of them. That is why we told our chairman of the abducted girl’s parents, Bashir Manzo, who is currently with the girls in Abuja that he should tell the president that the only favour we want from him is nothing but the rescue of Leah, our daughter who is still in captivity. An injury to one is an injury to all, that is the spirit that has been driving us here in Dapchi.
“And to the Boko Haram, we have also sent across our plea through the media that they should fear God and empathise with the poor girl and release her for us.”
Family deeply affected by Leah’s predicament
Leah’s family was thrown into deep sorrow on Wednesday when they were informed her captors refused to release her because she refused to convert from her Christian religion to Islam.
Leah’s mother was in a deep state of mourning on Wednesday while other parents celebrated the return of their children.
Her sister was also reported to have fainted and might even have slipped into a coma after hearing the news that her sister was not among those that were released.
Her father, Nata, was more defiant on Wednesday while speaking during an interview as he expressed his pride at his daughter’s courageous decision.
“I am happy because my daughter did not denounce her faith. They refused to release her because she refused to convert to Islam,” he said.
No ransom paid for girls – FG
The Federal Government has categorically denied reports that it paid a ransom to Boko Haram to secure the release of the girls.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the “unconditional” release of the girls was as a result of back-channel efforts achieved through “the help of some friends of the country”.
Released schoolgirls moved to Abuja
After the 104 schoolgirls, alongside two other released hostages, were documented and profiled in Dapchi on Wednesday, they were transported to Borno State capital, Maiduguri, for onward movement to Abuja.
At the 105 Air Force Composite Command, Maiduguri yesterday, the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Rogers Nicholas, presented the released girls to a delegation of the Federal Government.
The delegation was led by Lai Mohammed, and included Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Bukar-Abba.
The released girls, alongside their parents and some aid workers, boarded a Nigerian Air Force aircraft to Abuja late on Wednesday.
Boko Haram militants invaded Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School in Dapchi, Bursari local government area of Yobe on Monday, February 19, 2018, and abducted 110 schoolgirls.
According to accounts by residents, the terrorists invaded the town around 7 pm in over 18 gun trucks mounted with high caliber weapons.
The abduction was a repeat of another Boko Haram attack that happened when militants invaded Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok and kidnapped 276 female students in April 2014.
After several escapes and releases, 112 of the girls remain in captivity of the deadly terrorist group.