Nigerian president promises to 'redouble' efforts to free Leah Sharibu two years after kidnapping

Leah Sharibu(Photo: Open Doors UK)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said that all Nigerians are equal before the law and before God on the second anniversary of the abduction of Christian teenager Leah Sharibu. 

Wednesday marks two years to the day that Sharibu was kidnapped in Dapchi, Yobe state, along with over a hundred other girls by terrorist group Boko Haram.

She was 14 at the time and while the other girls were released soon after, Sharibu's captors refused to release her because she would not relinquish her Christian faith.

In a statement on the anniversary, Buhari said that his government was still working to secure her release. 

"We say, as the government for and of all Nigerians, that no person has the right to force another to change their faith against their will and that all life is sacred," he said. 

"This government continues and seeks to secure the release of all children and captives of terrorists - and we do so regardless of their creed or the name of their creator.

"As we redouble our efforts for Leah's return, we can never allow the terrorists to divide us - Christian against Muslim, Muslim against Christian. We are all Sons of Abraham. And all Nigerians have the same worth and rights before the law, and before God".

A Nigerian pastor who has worked closely with Sharibu's family since the kidnapping issued a message of hope for the teenager, telling her that she is "not alone". 

Reverend Gideon Para-Mallam said: "I can hear the expectation in his voice. He wants me to give them good news about Leah... This is the difficult part for me.

"Sometimes Leah's mother has this distant look in her eyes and you immediately know that physically she is here, but her mind and spirit is with Leah."

Rev Para-Mallam said that the international community needed to do more on behalf of Sharibu and the hundreds of those who have been kidnapped.

"We must keep the conversation going about what is happening in Nigeria [and West Africa]. These terrorists claim they marry them in the name of Islam. The reports say that the women are used as sex slaves. It's criminal," he said. 

He added: "We need to protect our children, our women."

The pastor urged Christians around the world to pray for Sharibu's release, and for an end to the persecution of Christians. 

"I encourage [Christians] to pray incessantly. She is an example to all of us; because she refuses to deny Christ, she is now held against her will. We pray that God will continue to strengthen Leah's faith and that the captors will be touched by Leah's persistence and faith in God," he said. 

"I would tell her to not give up. Don't be afraid. Don't feel neglected. You are not alone. God is there with you. That is the joy of your decision to stick with Christ. He will not fail you. You will not be disappointed. Smile Leah, smile!"