The former captive, Jennifer Ukambong Samuel, is an aid worker who was kidnapped by ISWAP on December 22 and was released January 16.
Unkambong told media on Sunday, January 19, that she visited Alice Ngaddah in her home in the Sambisa forest where she is providing injured terrorists with medical treatment. Alice, Unkambong said, told her that both Leah and Grace are alive. Reportedly, Alice asked for prayer and said that “she had left everything to God.”
In October 2018, ISWAP released a statement saying that Leah and Alice would be “slaves for life.” In a video, Grace Taku, another hostage kidnapped in July 2019, implied that both Leah and Alice had been killed in captivity. However the Nigerian government quickly refuted the claim.
Citing intelligence from security agencies, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu released a statement reaffirming that the government is negotiating with terrorists for the release of Leah and other captives.
“Contrary to false reports, she [Leah] is alive, given assurances from our security agencies, and the government is committed to her safe return, as well as all other hostages to their families,” Shehu said. “Instead of giving up, the government is carrying forward processes that should hopefully yield her release by her captors.”
Since being abducted February 19, 2018 during an attack on the Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School in the northeastern village of Dapchi, Leah has been held captive. When more than 100 of her Muslim classmates were released a month later through backchannel efforts, Leah was the only one not allowed to return home because she refused to renounce Jesus. She is now 16.
“We thank the Lord for Jennifer and her colleagues’ release and for the ray of hope about the other female captives, including Leah,” says Jo Newhouse, part of Open Doors’ Africa team. “However, they all need more. Open Doors strongly urges Nigerian President Buhari to continue his efforts to liberate the hostages held by Boko Haram.”
Open Doors is also asking Nigeria’s government to create a staff position who acts as a liaison between the government and the traumatized families of kidnapping victims.