We’ve not forgotten Leah Sharibu, will secure her release, Osinbajo tells Pence

Vice President Yemi-Osinbajo
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the Buhari administration has not forgotten Leah Sharibu, a schoolgirl still in the captivity of the dreaded Boko Haram.

He also said the government would continue to negotiate for her release and other captives of the sect.

Mr Osinbajo reportedly said this at a meeting he had with his American counterpart, Mike Pence, at the White House, Washington, D.C.

Ms Sharibu was one of the schoolgirls captured by the insurgents, alongside 111 other girls and a schoolboy, on February 19, 2018, in Bursari Local Government Area of Yobe State. She was reportedly aged 14 at the time she was abducted.

After weeks of negotiations between the government and the terrorists, they released 106 students on March 21, 2018.

Five of the remaining six girls were reported to have died while being taken to the sect’s hideout.

The terrorists reportedly refused to release Ms Sharibu because she refused to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam.

Global calls for her release have intensified in recent months.

On government’s efforts to secure the release of Ms Sharibu, Mr Osinbajo expressed the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to continue to negotiate for her release and that of the remaining abducted Chibok girls.

“Over 100 of the Chibok girls that were abducted even before President Buhari came into government have been released under the Buhari administration.

“Most of the Chibok girls, 90 per cent of them were also Christians,’’ Mr Osinbajo said.

Mr Pence, on his part, appreciated the efforts of the Nigerian government and offered US’s support in ensuring the release of others still abducted.

“I appreciate the perspective on Leah Sharibu; I am aware of the sensitive nature of her plight,” Mr Pence said.

He also noted that most of the girls that were released in the Chibok abduction were Christians.

NAN reports that Mr Osinbajo recalled how Mr Buhari was attacked by Boko Haram terrorists in 2014.

He said it was the firm and often publicly stated view of the president that anyone who killed an innocent person and then said “God is great” was either insane or simply did not understand what he was saying.

Economy, security top discussions

Meanwhile, economy, military assistance, countering extremism and terrorism matters were highlighted at the meeting, Mr Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, said in a statement on Thursday in Abuja

He said both leaders affirmed the mutual benefit inherent in a deeper bilateral relationship.

The meeting was held on Wednesday.

Both vice presidents, in their discussion on the economy, military assistance and other issues, affirmed the need for continuous observation of the rule of law.

They also acknowledged Nigeria’s pride of place on the African continent and America’s reputed global leadership.

“Issues discussed at the nearly hour-long meeting and interactions between the two leaders include how to counter extremism, the threat of global terrorism, and the continuous observation of the rule of law, among others.

“While both leaders agreed on the need to strengthen the economy and markets generally, Osinbajo added that the US is a natural ally of Nigeria, as Nigeria and US have many things in common.’’

Mr Osinbajo said Nigeria, being the largest economy in Africa, offered great opportunities to US investors.

He said that his visit to the White House was to further deepen the relationship between the two nations and their people.

In their discussions on economic matters, Mr Pence reportedly described Nigeria as a great country.

“Nigeria is a great country with a history of 200 million people; that’s a great nation. I want to see Nigeria prospering more.

“I am grateful that you reached out, the door is open for more dialogue.”

Mr Pence urged Nigeria to continue to pursue market reforms in the economy and encourage an independent judiciary, adding that the rule of law would contribute to Nigeria’s future.

Both leaders also discussed Nigeria’s economic diversification efforts, during which Mr Osinbajo spoke on how Nigeria was deepening the manufacturing industry and reforming the power sector to allow for more investors.

Mr Osinbajo appreciated the support of USAID through its Power Africa initiative that was helping Nigeria to further open the space in the power sector.

On security challenges and military assistance, Mr Osinbajo thanked the Trump administration for its support on the purchase order for the Tucano aircraft, stressing that such military equipment would help Nigeria in the battle against terrorism and insurgency.

Mr Osinbajo returned to Abuja on Thursday morning.

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