The Presidency has dismissed speculation that Leah Sharibu, the Dapchi schoolgirl still held by Boko Haram, is dead.
The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in a statement he issued on Saturday in Abuja.
Shehu assured Nigerians that the government would not give up on Sharibu, a Christian, who was denied freedom by the terrorist group because of her faith.
He stated, ‘‘Instead of giving up, the government is carrying forward processes that should hopefully yield her release by her captors.”
Stressing that she was alive, Shehu added, “Lines of communications remain open with the kidnappers, ISWAP, to secure the release of Leah Sharibu.
‘‘Contrary to false reports, she is alive – given assurances from our security agencies- and the government is committed to her safe return, as well as all other hostages to their families.
“Kidnapping for ransom should never be encouraged. This means not capitulating to the demands of terrorists: refrain from rewarding their heinous crimes with payment.
“With the abduction of loved family (members) and friends, the government understands how difficult these times are for them, but government is pursuing many options to ensure the safe return of Leah Sharibu.
“We must commit to law and communication, using the breadth of strategies at our disposal: legal initiatives, stakeholder cooperation, involvement of all relevant parties and the use of the latest hostage negotiation techniques.
‘‘Kidnapping for ransom is rising across the Sahel. We must – collectively – make sure we implement best practice to prevent its exploitation.”
He called for patience to allow the government’s efforts to come to fruition.
People & Politics recall that in the month of February, exactly one year since the Christian teenager was abducted from her boarding school in north-eastern Nigeria, a coalition of groups called on presidential candidates to tell Nigerians how they plan to secure her release.
“We are urging the political parties and their candidates that now that the campaigns have reopened, they should not begin any campaigns without addressing us on the future of Leah,” Mr Emmanuel Ogeb, chairman of the Coalition for Leah, told journalists in Abuja on 19 February.