NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: persecution in Nigeria.
Boko Haram’s violence in northeastern Nigeria has killed tens of thousands of people. Hundreds more remain in captivity. That includes a young Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, whom the terror group won’t release because she refuses to renounce her faith.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: You may remember when Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls five years ago from the town of Chibok in northeast Nigeria. But the victims’ families say they feel they’ve been forgotten since then.
Earlier this month, Christians from that area came to Washington to appeal for help. They told harrowing stories of attacks by another group of Islamic militants.
WORLD Africa reporter Onize Ohikere is based in Abuja, Nigeria. She’s been following this story and joins us now.
Good morning, Onize.
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary.
REICHARD: First remind us who these kidnapping victims are and when they were taken.
OHIKERE: Yeah, the first mass school kidnapping took place in 2014 in the town of Chibok. That’s also located in northeastern Borno state, which is the birthplace of Boko Haram. So the insurgents descended on the school and took 276 girls. Over the years, several of the girls escaped and some were rescued through negotiations. But so far, we know about 112 girls remain unaccounted for.
The more recent case happened last year in the town of Dapchi, which is in northeastern Yobe state. We know the militants from an offshoot of Boko Haram called the Islamic State West African Province abducted 110 girls from a boarding school. The militants released all of the captives except Leah Sharibu because she was the only Christian and refused to renounce her faith.
REICHARD: And what’s the status of the attempt to bring them home?
OHIKERE: Unfortunately, there’s really been no recent update from the government except the repeated phrase that authorities are still working to secure their release. For the Chibok girls, members of the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign are still rallying for their release on social media. And the private group holds events in Abuja—which is the capital city—and in Lagos State just to sort of let people know that the girls are really still in captivity, like this is still going on.
The same goes for Leah’s case. During her mother’s visit to the U.S. last month, she explained that the president personally assured her over a phone call back in October that authorities are still working to secure her release. But so far she hasn’t received any updates since then. I have a clip from Rebecca, Leah’s mother.
SHARIBU: I am here for pleading the government of the U.S. Please help me bring my daughter back. I need my daughter.
REICHARD: Boko Haram isn’t the only group targeting Nigeria’s Christians. Tell us about the Fulani herdsmen and what they’ve done recently.
OHIKERE: Yeah, so these armed herdsmen have remained active mostly across central Nigeria. So Nigeria has for a long time had nomadic herders who roam around with their cattle searching for a grazing pasture. But this time what we’re seeing is that these herders are more armed and are completely destroying predominantly Christian farming communities. One of the more recent cases that happened took place in the community of Adara which is in Kaduna State. The herdsmen staged attacks within February and April and this violence killed at least 400 people and displaced no less than 13,000 others. And, really, this is just one instance among many others that continue to happen. Let’s listen to one of the Adara community members, Mercy Maisamari, recount her experience.
MAISAMARI: Girls, young girls like Leah Sheribu and others, are kidnapped almost on a daily basis. They kidnap you. They do whatever. They beat you. They abuse you. Some of them would ask us, ‘Where is your Jesus? Call your Jesus to come and save you.’
REICHARD: Several Nigerian activists recently visited Washington. What do they want to U-S to do?
OHIKERE: As I mentioned earlier, you have family members from kidnap victims reporting they received no update from authorities and on the other hand you survivors of the herders’ attack complain that genocide is taking place just because of the rate and the nature of the attacks. So, simply they are calling on the U.S. to intervene in the insecurity since they’re receiving no assistance within their country. I recently spoke with Nina Shea with the D.C.-based Hudson Institute and she explained that the U.S. can still do more within its policies—whether it’s by an economic or military intervention—to protect these Christian communities.
REICHARD: Onize Ohikere is WORLD’s Africa reporter, based in Abuja, Nigeria. Thanks for joining us today!
OHIKERE: You’re welcome, Mary.