Kidnapped at 14, Nigerian girl turns 20 in captivity


Leah Shabiru

from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
Nigeria Bureau
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – THE Nigerian young woman held captive by Islamists, for refusing to denounce Christianity, has turned 20 amid calls on the government to facilitate her rescue.

Leah Shabiru was 14 at the time of her kidnapping by the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). Her birthday was on Sunday, coinciding with Mother’s Day.

She was among more than 100 schoolgirls kidnapped by militants at the Government Girls Science Technical College in the town of Dapchi in the northern Yobe State.

All other girls were released after renouncing Christianity, in favour of Islam.

Shabiru refused.

Two months after the kidnap, ISWAP released a video in which she begged for the government’s help.

Later, the militant group warned that they would kill Shabiru, 15 at the time.

ISWAP released another video saying Shabiru would be their “slave for life.”

There are frequent rumours about Leah’s whereabouts. Reports suggest she has been married off to one of the commanders and given birth to two children.

“She becomes an adult having had most of her teenage years cruelly robbed from her,” stated the Open Doors, a Christian advocacy organisation.

It quoted her mother, Rebecca as praying for the release of her daughter.

The Nigerian government of President Muhammadu Buhari has had mixed success rescuing captives from militants.

“Nothing is too big for God to do. I know one day she will come back,” the mother is quoted.

Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of State, mentioned Shabiru, in the 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom.

“In Nigeria, yesterday (Sunday) Leah Sharibu turned 20 years old but remains captive to the Islamic State in West Africa Province after being kidnapped six years ago,” Blinken said.

Enough is Enough Nigeria, the pro-democracy group, lamented that unfortunately, not much was said or heard about ongoing efforts to secure her release.

“We urge the government and the president to intensify efforts to bring her home,” it stated.

The organisation also reminded that 89 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in the Chibok town of Borno state remained missing. They were among over 200 girls that were abducted from school in 2014.

Buhari was elected in 2015 on a pledge to eradicate Boko Haram.

His term expires on May 29.

– CAJ News