Leah Sharibu, 14, was abducted by Boko Haram on 19 February. (Photo from family)
Leah Sharibu (photo from family)

Leah Sharibu, the Christian teenager abducted by an Islamist group in February, has asked Nigeria’s president to intervene and help facilitate her release.

In a 35-second audio recording, obtained by Ahmad Salkida for Nigerian newspaper The Cable, she asks for help for her family and herself.

“I also plead to the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives. Kindly help me out of my predicament. I am begging you to treat me with compassion. I am calling on the government, particularly the president, to pity me and get me out of this serious situation. Thank you,” she said.

A photo of her, sitting on a pink-patterned carpet in a hijab, has been taken as further proof that she is still alive.

According to The Cable, this proof of life was a requirement in possible renewed negotiation efforts between the government and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a break-away faction of Boko Haram, which is apparently holding her.

“It really is her voice. Before, I thought she wasn’t even alive,” Leah’s father, Nathan, told the BBC.

He said the recording had given the family hope and that they wanted the government to do more, “as were Christians and some Muslims that are praying for my daughter. We are very, very sad in the family. I hope they will put more pressure concerning her release”.

Refused to blend in

Leah, 15, was the only Christian taken when the Islamist group abducted 110 girls during a raid on a school in Dapchi, in the north-eastern state of Yobe. Boko Haram later released 104, with the last five thought to have died in captivity.

Leah was held because she refused to denounce her faith, according to her father. He said in March, after hearing that Leah had turned down an opportunity to be released if she converted to Islam, that he was “very sad but also jubilant because my daughter did not denounce Christ”.

Leah also refused to blend in with other captives wearing a hijab, according to friends who were released. She sent a message with one to her mother, saying: “My mother you should not be disturbed. I know it is not easy missing me, but I want to assure you that I am fine where I am … I am confident that one day I shall see your face again. If not here, then there at the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”