ABUJA, Nigeria (BP) — The Nigerian government should urgently secure the release of a Christian schoolgirl that Boko Haram terrorists have threatened to imminently kill because of her faith, an advocacy group said in a Nigerian federal lawsuit.
Lift Up Now, led by Southern Baptist Nigerian native Adeniya Ojutiku of Raleigh, N.C., is one of three plaintiffs in the Sept. 19 lawsuit urging Nigeria to secure the release of Leah Sharibu, described in court documents as 16 years old.
Boko Haram captured Sharibu and about 110 of her classmates Feb. 19 from the Government Girls Secondary School in the Yobe state town of Dapchi in northeast Nigeria. The terror group refused to release her with her classmates a month later reportedly because she would not renounce her Christian faith.
The legal action came after Boko Haram killed 25-year-old midwife Saifura Khorsa of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), kidnapped six months ago from the Rann Camp for internally displaced persons in Borno. Boko Haram released a video Sept. 17 of insurgents killing Khorsa, and threatened to kill other captives including Sharibu, if the government did not respond to the terrorists’ unspecified demands.
Other groups, including the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria, have also advocated for Sharibu’s release.
Nigeria’s national attorney general and inspector general of police, defendants in the case, are dutifully bound to protect Sharibu’s right to life, Ojutiku said in the lawsuit, joined by co-plaintiffs Rebecca Sharibu and Daniel David Kadzai, identified as Leah Sharibu’s friends.
Leah Sharibu’s “freedom of thought and conscience, religion and right against every form of discrimination” are at stake, the suit maintains. In addition to Sharibu’s freedom from her captors, the suit seeks 500 million naira, the equivalent of about $1.3 million dollars in compensation for the schoolgirl’s “indignities and human deprivation suffered” because of the “defendants’ dereliction of statutory duties in securing her release from her captors” since her kidnapping.
Boko Haram murdered Khorsa barely a month after releasing photos and audio recording of the midwife and two other female aid workers begging the Nigerian government to rescue them. Sharibu’s voice was also heard on the recording, the Nigerian government said.
Sharibu’s capture was the second of two internationally publicized Boko Haram kidnapping of schoolgirls. Previously in 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the majority Christian town of Chibok. Of those, 112 are still missing and, World Watch Monitor reported in April, 97 of those are feared dead.
Boko Haram is gaining strength as Nigeria prepares for national elections, including president Muhammadu Buhari’s bid for reelection. Buhari won his first election bid in 2015 on a pledge to defeat Boko Haram, militants who have pledged allegiance to ISIS (known as the Islamic State). In December 2016, Buhari declared what the termed a “technical defeat” of Boko Haram, saying he had weakened the group sufficiently that it could only conduct suicide bombings.
Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 Christians and Muslims and displaced millions in the past 10 years, according to official counts, in a move to establish national Sharia law. Militant Fulani herdsmen have joined Boko Haram in its violence in recent years, reportedly killing thousands.
Among the most recent attacks, militant Fulani herdsmen killed between 120 and 200 Christian mourners and injured others leaving a July weekend funeral in Plateau State.
In a series of attacks Sept. 13 – 16, at least 27 Christians died and 10 are still missing after herdsmen attacked several villages along the Benue River in Adamawa state, Morning Star News reported Sept. 21. Many of the Christians, about 20, drowned while trying to escape, Morning Star said.