Bayo Akinloye

The Presidency has reiterated its commitment to the release of Leah Sharibu and others in terrorists’ captivity. A senior presidency official, who preferred anonymity, said on Saturday, “We haven’t given up about Leah Sharibu. We are hopeful and optimistic.”

The Presidency’s reaction followed a request by THISDAY for the government’s response to an appeal by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to President Muhammadu Buhari to do more to secure the freedom of Leah and others abducted by terror groups. CAN’s call was triggered by speculations on Thursday that Sharibu might have been killed by her abductors, after a video released by the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), also known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād or Boko Haram, showing abducted aid workers. One of the abductees in the video, named Grace, appealed to the government to facilitate their freedom.

Asked to react specifically to the impression in the video that Sharibu had been killed, the Presidency official said that “is not the impression we have. We are hopeful about her. We are optimistic and hopeful. We haven’t given up, we are on it and hopeful about her.”
He said the government’s earlier reaction to the video in question still sufficed, adding that as far as “we are concerned, securing Leah Sharibu’s freedom and that of others is work in progress. We issued a statement on the day the video was released and the position hasn’t changed. We are talking to those involved and we are hopeful. We can’t be joining issues with any individual or group on the pages of newspapers.”

The official also hinted on what might be hindering Sharibu’s release. “If some people are asking for the kind of money that can buy anti-aircraft guns, are you going to give out that money? So that they will go out and do more damage? So we have to be very careful. But I can assure you, the pressure is on.”

Sharibu was one of the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped from Dapchi, Yobe State, by Boko Haram on February 19, 2018. She was the only one that the insurgents denied freedom, when the federal government intervened, because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.

An international aid agency, Action Against Hunger, said in a statement that Grace Taku and the others in the video were abducted recently near the town of Damasak in Bornu State by ISWAP, which released the video of the aid workers in captivity. It confirmed that their staff appeared in the video released on Wednesday evening and said they were “apparently in a good condition of health.”

Following the video, CAN had called on Buhari to quicken efforts to secure the release of Miss Leah Sharibu and Grace Taku, a worker with Action Against Hunger, and five of her colleagues abducted in Borno State by ISWAP. CAN President, His Eminence, Reverend Samson Ayokunle, made the call in a statement signed by his Special Assistant, (Media), Pastor Bayo Oladeji, on Friday, one week after the abduction of the six aid workers.

Ayokunle declared, “Enough of paying of lips service to the menace of security challenges in the country,” stressing, “The primary duty of any serious government is the security of lives and property of the governed. Any government that cannot guarantee this primary responsibility may lose the confidence of the citizens.”

He wondered how the six aid workers were abducted without the knowledge of the security agencies. “What has become of their intelligence gathering? Are we sure there are no saboteurs among our security agencies? Is there anything the government and the security agencies are doing to stop this menace that we don’t know, to avert its negative effect, as some notorious people take laws into their hands?” the CAN president asked.