The kidnapped teenage student, Leah Sharibu, will on Monday mark her 15th birthday in the custody of her captors.
Miss Sharibu is the only one of the schoolgirls kidnapped from Dapchi still with the terror group, Boko Haram.
It is now almost two months since the Nigerian government negotiated the release of the 105 abducted Dapchi girls.
About 110 students, including Miss Sharibu, were abducted from the Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, after their school was attacked by the Boko Haram on February 19.
Four days after their abduction, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to ensure the safe return of all the abducted students.
Mr Buhari also vowed that his administration would ensure the abductors of the Dapchi girls were apprehended and brought to justice.
“I also instructed the security agencies to deploy in full and not spare any effort to ensure that all the girls are returned safely, and the attackers arrested and made to face justice,” the president had said.
A month after their abduction, the federal government secured the release of 105 of the girls, following what was described by the Director-General of the State Security Service Lawal Daura as a series of ‘behind-the-scene discussion.’
Like the news about their abduction, controversial figures of the number of released girls emanated from official authorities in government, till a final information revealed the total number of freed girls to be 105.
Miss Sharibu, who would have been the 106th girl to be freed, was left behind for refusing to denounce her Christian faith.
The remaining four kidnapped girls were reported to have died at the hands of their captors, who entered freely into Dapchi town on March 21 to return the freed girls.
Miss Sharibu’s mother had fainted and became unconscious after hearing the news about her daughter’s situation.
In a statement shortly after their release, Mr Buhari pledged to ensure that, “the lone girl was not abandoned”.
“The Buhari administration will not relent in efforts to bring Leah Sharibu safely back home to her parents as it has done for the other girls.
“President Buhari is fully conscious of his duty under the Constitution to protect all Nigerians, irrespective of faith, ethnic background or geopolitical location and will not shirk in this responsibility,” the statement signed by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu had said.
Three days after the release of the 105 Dapchi girls, the Inspected-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, was quoted as saying that Miss Sharibu may be released by her abductors.
“I am supposed to go to Dapchi today, but because I learnt that that schoolgirl, Leah, may be released today, that was why I have to shelve my trip to the town,” Mr Idris said.
Mr Idris however explained his stance when the girl was not returned.
Speaking also on the floor of the Senate; a senator representing Yobe State, Bukar Ibrahim, said on March 29 that Miss Sharibu, as well as the remaining Chibok girls still held captive would soon be free.
The same terror organisation had abducted 276 girls in April, 2014 at a boarding school in Chibok, Borno State, during the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
About 57 of the girls were later reported to have escaped while 107 girls have so far been freed by the group, leaving 112 of the girls still held captive, four years after their abduction.
Yet 54 days after the negotiated return of the Dapchi girls and 84 days after Miss Sharibu’s abduction, neither the federal government nor its security agencies have succeeded in ensuring the safe return of Miss Sharibu.
Reacting to the continued detention of Miss Sharibu, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, (CSN) described her situation as a demonstration of increased hostilities against the Christian religion in Nigeria, as well as in other parts of the world.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday evening, the girl’s father, Sharibu Nathan, pleaded again with government to ensure the safe release of his daughter.
“Up till now, we have not seen our daughter. I am asking the government to please try and bring my daughter back safe. They should please help us!” Mr Nathan pleaded.
He thanked Nigerians, both Muslims and Christians, for their prayers and called for more supplications to ensure the release of his daughter.
“I thank all those Muslims and Christians who have prayed for us. They should please say more prayers for my daughter,” Mr Nathan added.
In a message by spokesperson for the Bring Back Our girls, (BBOG) group, Sesugh Akumeh, on Sunday night; the group said Miss Sharibu would have been marking her 15th birthday on Monday (today).
PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Nathan who confirmed the information to be true. “Yes today is her birthday,” Mr Nathan said.
While Nigerians expect the government to ensure Miss Sharibu’s release, it now appears certain that on May 14, 2018 when she should be celebrating her 15th birthday with family and friends, she is still with her captors.