ADAMAWA STATE, Nigeria – Repeated Boko Haram attacks targeting Christians in northeastern Nigeria have created a humanitarian aid crisis in neighboring cities where tens of thousands have fled for safety, Nigerian relations expert Adeniyi Ojutiku told Baptist Press.
In the latest violence, Boko Haram gunman are blamed for three separate attacks Wednesday (Feb. 26) that killed at least 37 people in northeast Nigeria, including an attack on a Christian theological college, Nigeria based Vanguard News reported.
The attacks occurred just days after Boko Haram invaded a secondary boarding school in Yobe State, killing 43 students, ages 13 – 17, and staff. Earlier news reports quoted Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufai as saying no female students were harmed at the boarding school. But according to updated Vanguard News reports that Ojutiku confirmed as credible, 16 female students were abducted.
“This thing is happening by the hour. It’s no longer weeks apart. It’s crazy,” Ojutiku said. “The Lord is our help.”
Ojutiku, a Southern Baptist based in Raleigh, N.C., co-founded the grassroots, Christian group Lift Up Now to improve the living conditions of Nigerians in his homeland.
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan’s appointment of new military leaders in December 2013, and his declaration of a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states last May, have not stopped the violence.
“The nature of more recent attacks of Boko Haram and similar Islamist terror organizations in Nigeria, shows that these people are deriving an insatiable, sadistic excitement and thrill from gashing and spilling human blood in an unprecedented manner of bold effrontery and bizarreness,” Ojutiku said.
“Boko Haram operatives cannot be pacified! To attack and massacre the most vulnerable of society in their assumed haven of safety, pursuing a most noble course, at the most unguarded moment is another low to which this group has now sunk.”
More than 500 have been killed in Borno state alone in the last two months, according to BBC News.
News reports vary on the number of refugees displaced, but on Jan. 24, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees reported 6,000 people had fled fighting in Nigeria to neighboring Cameroon and Niger within the previous 10 days. Many reports estimate tens of thousands have been displaced since May, 2013.
“A lot of people, even though they are alive, they have been maimed, hands cut off, legs cut off,” Ojutiku said. “Those types of people need medical help. Medical teams need to be organized to provide support and care. Local hospitals are completely overwhelmed, understaffed and in short supply of emergency materials.”
The refugees have no personal belongings, Ojutiku said, and need temporary shelter, food, water, clothing and other basic necessities in the short term, but will likely need long-term help in rebuilding their lives.
“The most important thing is for them to be gainfully employed,” he said. “That helps them to be able to take care of themselves, so they don’t have to be depending on humanitarian aid. There needs to be some kind of effort to help them rebuild their lost structures, churches, homes, schools and to have them continue their daily existence.”
The big cities where the refugees have fled offer more safety than in the rural areas in the northeast, Ojutiku said.
“There is danger everywhere, but the levels are different,” he said. “Where they are now, the big cities, there seems to be military presence, police presence.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/ editor.)