NIGERIANS woke up to the incredible news of the abduction of another set of schoolgirls, at the Government Girls’ Science School in Dapchi, Yobe State, on February 9, 2018. Later, it was discovered that about 110 girls of the over 900 students of the school, were missing.
The abduction was a huge setback for girl-child education and could discourage other girls from attending secondary schools in the state.
About a month after the abduction, about 104 of the schoolgirls, one young boy and another girl were safely returned to Dapchi on March 21, by Boko Haram insurgents. Unfortunately, five of the abducted girls were reported to have died during the abduction saga.
But one other girl, Leah Sharibu, is still in the custody of the abductors allegedly on account of her refusal to renounce her Christian faith and accept Islam as her new religion. We urge that Leah Sharibu be released immediately and unconditionally by her captors because no religion teaches compulsion in the recruitment of adherents.
The abductors of Miss Sharibu should be reminded that our country’s constitution and indeed all international laws and conventions abhor restrictions to individual freedoms and liberties, including the freedom of religion. Sharibu’s right to freedom of religion must be respected.
Leah Sharibu deserves her freedom and we believe she would regain it, with patient and persistent negotiations between the Federal Government and the insurgents. Let those negotiating with the insurgents expedite action on Sharibu’s release forthwith.
We, therefore, urge the Federal Government not to relent in its efforts to ensure the release of all schoolgirls still in Boko Haram’s captivity.
We want the current negotiations to go beyond the release of the captives, to ending the insurgency in the country. This objective, if attained, would go a long way in bringing to an end one of the darkest and saddest chapters in the country’s history, since the return to participatory democracy in 1999.
Undoubtedly, Nigerians, especially those in the affected states of the North-east zone have suffered untold hardships, the consequences of which are bound to remain with them for a very long time. The cost of rebuilding damaged infrastructure in the affected areas is enormous.
The resources required to rebuild the North-east zone are likely to be beyond the capacity of the federal and state governments. Therefore, the rebuilding of the war-torn North-east region would require the goodwill and generosity of our international partners and development agencies.
Apart from seeking freedom for Leah Sharibu, we enjoin the Federal Government to remember the remaining Chibok schoolgirls, who are still in the captivity of the Boko Haram insurgents almost four years now.
Government must expedite action therefore to ensure their prompt release and subsequent rehabilitation and reintegration into the society.
Until the remaining Chibok schoolgirls are released, the country cannot have a closure on the unfortunate abduction of 2014. Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari said that much in his inaugural speech on assumption of office in May 2015, and must do everything possible to bring the ugly incident to a closure.
The country sorely needs peace and the positive mobilisation of all citizens to confront our many challenges of development, so as to take our rightful place among other nations of the world.
We congratulate the government for the release of the Dapchi schoolgirls and urge it to work hard to secure freedom for Leah Sharibu and the remaining Chibok schoolgirls still in Boko Haram’s captivity. That is what Nigerians expect from the government now.