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Lagos archbishop urges Nigerian president to secure release of kidnapped girl

February 23, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Lagos, Nigeria, Feb 23, 2021 / 07:49 pm (CNA).- Three years after Leah Sharibu was abducted from her school in Dapchi in Yobe State within Nigeria’s Diocese of Maiduguri, the Archbishop of Lagos has called on the country’s head of state to “do all in his power … to secure her release.”

In a Feb. 20 statement by the Director of Social Communications of Lagos Archdiocese, Fr. Anthony Godonu, Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins says “it is sad” that the Nigerian school girl is still being held, three years after she was kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents.

Archbishop Adewale urges President Muhammadu Buhari to “do all in his power as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, the one from whom all other security agencies take their orders, to secure her release.”

Leah is among the 110 girls abducted from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC) Dapchi in Yobe State by members of the Boko Haram militia Feb. 19, 2018.

While most of the girls were released the following month, Leah, aged 14 at the time of her kidnapping, did not regain her freedom for reportedly refusing to convert to Islam. Five other girls died while in captivity, according to reports.

Following the release of the 104 girls, Buhari said that his government will not relent in efforts to bring Leah safely back home.

Making reference to the assurances Buhari give in March 2018 for Leah’s release, Archbishop Adewale regrets that “she along with others are still languishing in the hands of their abductors till date.”

“We have been told that several efforts have been made to ensure her release, but we are yet to see them materialize,” the 61-year-old Nigerian archbishop says, adding that “one can only imagine the severe physical, emotional, and psychological torture she and her parents have been going through all these years.”

In the Feb. 20 statement issued by the Director of Social Communications of Lagos Archdiocese, Archbishop Adewale also calls on Buhari’s government to work toward the release of other abducted students “and unite them once again to their already distraught families.”

Multiple reports indicate that Boko Haram has been responsible for attacks and kidnappings in Nigerian schools. Just last week, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram militants raided the Government Science Secondary School in Kagara in Nigeria’s Niger State in the North-Eastern part of the country, kidnapping at least 20 teenage boys.

One student was killed during the Feb. 17 attack.

The militant group claimed responsibility for the December 2020 abduction of 300 boys from the Government Science School in Kankara, Katsina State, a territory covered by the Diocese of Sokoto. The boys secured their released after a week in captivity.

The Islamist militant group also claimed responsibility for the April 2014 abduction of 276 girls from their school in Chibok, Northeastern Nigeria. 100 of the girls are reportedly still missing.

In the Feb. 20 message, Archbishop Adewale also acknowledges with appreciation the January 27 appointment of Service Chiefs and reminds them of “the enormous responsibility ahead of them, especially the need to win back the full confidence of Nigerians in the military.”

The ordinary of Lagos further urges the new Service Chiefs to take the fight against insurgents to a higher level by “buoying the morale of the officers and men of the force and to employ sophisticated intelligence techniques to identify and further decimate the Boko Haram members and the bandits terrorizing the country.”


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Pope Francis prays for victims of Islamist attack in Nigeria that left 30 beheaded

December 2, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that he was praying for Nigeria following a massacre of at least 110 farmers in which Islamist militants beheaded an estimated 30 people.

“I want to assure my prayers for Nigeria, where blood has unfortunately been spilled once more in a terrorist massacre,” the pope said at the end of his general audience Dec. 2.

“Last Saturday, in the northeast of the country, more than 100 farmers were brutally killed. May God welcome them in His peace and comfort their families, and convert the hearts of those who commit similar atrocities which gravely offend His name.”

The Nov. 28 attack in Borno State is the most violent direct attack against civilians in Nigeria this year, according to Edward Kallon, the United Nations’ Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria.

Among the 110 people killed, roughly 30 people were beheaded by the militants, according to Reuters. Amnesty International has also reported that 10 women are missing after the attack.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local anti-jihadist militia told AFP that the Boko Haram operate in the area and frequently attack farmers. The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has also been named as a possible perpetrator of the massacre.

More than 12,000 Christians in Nigeria have been killed in Islamist attacks since June 2015, according to a 2020 report by the Nigerian human rights organization, the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety). 

The same report found that 600 Christians were killed in Nigeria in the first five months of 2020. 

Christians in Nigeria have been beheaded and set on fire, farms have been set ablaze, and priests and seminarians have been targeted for kidnapping and ransom.

Fr. Matthew Dajo, a priest from the Archdiocese of Abuja, was kidnapped on Nov. 22. He has not been released, according to the archdiocesan spokesman.

Dajo was abducted by gunmen during an attack on the town of Yangoji, where his parish St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is located. Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja has issued a call for prayers for his safe release.

Kidnappings of Catholics in Nigeria are an ongoing problem that not only affects priests and seminarians, but also lay faithful, Kaigama said.

Since 2011, Islamist group Boko Haram has been behind many abductions, including that of 110 students kidnapped from their boarding school in Feb. 2018. Of those kidnapped, one Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, is still being held.

The local Islamic State-affiliated group has also carried out attacks in Nigeria. The group was formed after the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2015. The group was then renamed the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

In February, U.S Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback told CNA that the situation in Nigeria was deteriorating.

“There’s a lot of people getting killed in Nigeria, and we’re afraid it is going to spread a great deal in that region,” he told CNA. “It is one that’s really popped up on my radar screens — in the last couple of years, but particularly this past year.”

“I think we’ve got to prod the [Nigerian President Muhammadu] Buhari government more. They can do more,” he said. “They’re not bringing these people to justice that are killing religious adherents. They don’t seem to have the sense of urgency to act.”