Many Nigerians living especially in the northern states of the country have now decided to take to their heels to escape the increasing violent attacks from the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram, who has also threatened more reprisal attacks on christians in the region.
Speaking to news agency AFP in Fotocol, a Christian Priest who pleaded anonymity said “Everybody is insecure in Nigeria. The fear is all-pervading,” said a Nigerian Christian priest, speaking on condition of anonymity, in Fotokol, a Cameroonian border town where dozens have taken shelter in the last few weeks.
Fotokol is located about 100km from the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the bastion of the shadowy Boko Haram sect which has been blamed for a slew of terror attacks that have sowed panic in Africa’s most populous nation.
Boko Haram has claimed to be fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria’s north, but its demands have varied.
“Many Nigerians like myself have fled their villages in the south. We feel secure in Cameroon,” the priest said in Fotokol. “That is why I am sheltered here,” he added.
He has rented a house which is about 10 minutes by motorcycle to the nearest town in Nigeria, Gamboru Ngala, where he heads the local Catholic church.
The exact number of Nigerians who have fled the country fro fear of violent attacks is not known as those who have fled to Cameroon cross the border illegally, but there are dozens sheltered in Fotokol since the attacks.
Mahamat Tujani, a Muslim trader from Maiduguri also fled to Kousseri near Fotokol.
Speaking to newsmen, he said “I abandoned my business and my family to seek refuge at the home of my cousin,” a Cameroonian, he said. “I escaped out of fear.”
He hoped to return home soon, he said, “but if the killings continue, I will bring over my family members here”.
Boko Haram hasclaimed responsibility for scores of bomb attacks in Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north. It claimed responsibility for January 20 coordinated bombings and shootings in Nigeria’s second-largest city of Kano that left at least 185 people dead – Boko Haram’s deadliest attack yet.
The August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed at least 26 people was also attributed to the group.
“When you sense danger, you must escape,” the priest said.
“Even in the Gospel, the Lord says the moment you sense danger, you must escape. If you don’t it’s suicide,” he said.
“Return to God”
The priest said two Christians from the mainly Christian Igbo ethnic group were killed in Mobi in Adamawa state about three weeks ago.
“When the other Igbos went to reclaim their bodies the Boko Haram struck and killed 29 others,” he said.
Sectarian violence has been rising since elections in July last year. He urged both Christians and Muslims to “return to God”.
The priest said Muslims were also targeted by Boko Haram. Between January 28 and 30, three people – including a Muslim – were killed in Gamboru Ngala, Nigerian and Cameroonian police and medical sources said.
The priest was following an Africa Cup of Nations match on television at a bar, along with six other compatriots. In another room, eight other Nigerians sat, drinking.