Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) will mark one year since the abduction of Leah Sharibu by Boko Haram from her school in Nigeria with a protest outside the Nigeria High Commission in London tomorrow, Tuesday 19 February.
On 19 February 2018, Leah Sharibu was the sole Christian among 110 school girls abducted from their school in Dapchi by the Boko Haram offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). She was 14 years-old. While all of her surviving classmates were released the next month following government negotiations, Leah was denied her freedom as she refused to convert as a precondition for her freedom.
Ms Sharibu has been held in captivity ever since. In September 2018, Boko Haram issued a final ultimatum on her life after executing a fellow hostage. She was eventually spared, but only after the group executed another hostage and declared that Ms Sharibu and an abducted humanitarian named Alice Loksha Ngaddah were to be their slaves for life.
The protest on 19 February will take place outside the Nigerian High Commission in London from 9am to 5pm, and will call on the Government of Nigeria to expedite Ms Sharibu and Ms Ngaddah's release, as well as that of the remaining 112 girls who were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno state, in April 2014. A petition will also be delivered to the High Commission.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "Leah Sharibu has now been in the hands of this violent sect for 365 days and we are deeply concerned by the lack of government action to secure her release. We continue to call on the government of Nigeria to do everything in its power to expedite the release of this courageous schoolgirl, alongside that of her fellow hostages. We also call on the government of Nigeria to ensure that the army is sufficiently equipped to combat Boko Haram effectively, particularly in light of the surge in activity by both factions, and their threat to undermine the electoral process."
Nigeria was scheduled to hold general elections on 16 February; however, these were postponed to 23 February five hours before voting was due to begin. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cited logistical reasons for the postponement. In addition, a televised claim by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai of 66 people having been killed on the eve of the election in the Kajuru Local Government Area, and the insinuation the victims were largely women and children from the Fulani ethnic group, has been widely refuted, including by the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
During a televised emergency caucus meeting of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja on 18 February President Muhammadu Buhari stated that anyone causing trouble during the elections, and especially those who snatch ballot boxes, would be doing so at the "expense of their life."
Mr Thomas added: "CSW continues to call for the Nigerian authorities to ensure that the general elections are fair and free from violence. We urge the government not to resort to lethal force against those suspected of interfering with the vote, and to follow due process by arresting them and bringing them to trial. We also urge all those in positions of power in Nigeria to foster unity and to refrain from resorting to statements that divide already fragile communities and further damage the social fabric."
The protest will take place from 9am to 5pm on Tuesday 19 February outside the Nigeria High Commission, 9 Northumberland Ave, Westminster, London WC2N 5BX.
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