“As we speak, swathes of territories in Northern Nigeria are no go areas except for them; meaning swathes of territories that I as a priest, as a Christian, cannot go into because they have taken over; they have hoisted their flag,” he stated.
He explained that in Borno state, for instance, there are vast territories where citizens are forced to pay taxes to Boko Haram and other bandits so as to be allowed to carry on legitimate activities like going to their farms.
“I am not able to give you the number or the geographical dimension or size but there are swathes of territories here and there where the average person cannot go to, that even government officials cannot go to,” he said, adding, “If the governor of the state wants to go there, he will need a battalion of the military to be able to go to that area.”
He noted a November 2020 incident in Zabarmari in Borno state. He said at least 39 farmers were killed, and “their offence was that they went to the farm.”
He says that although many of those killed were Christians, Muslims were also victims of the violence.
Fr. Ehusani told ACI Africa that over time, militants who only targeted Christians have started killing Muslims who refuse to be part of them.
In the beginning of the Islamist attacks, only Christian places of worship were being burnt down, the priest recalled. With time, he said, the attacks degenerated and now, everybody who is not part of the militants is targeted.
“When it started, even the moderate Muslims either were too scared to speak out or they sympathized with these people. So, they kept quiet. So, part of the ways in which this thing became a wildfire is that at the beginning in 2009, 2010 and 2011, many moderate Muslims in Northern Nigeria kept quiet,” he said.
Fr. Ehusani said in reference to the Muslims, “At that time they thought that it is only us Christians who will be victims. Now when you ignore a wildfire, it will consume you yourself.”
“It is no longer just about Christians,” he reiterated, explaining that “Today, even mosques are being ransacked. Islamic schools have been ransacked.”
He said that when the attacks began, militants picked out Christians on abducted buses, killed them, and allowed Muslims to go. But “now they will kidnap everybody in the bus and ask for ransom. And if they don't get the ransom, they kill all of them.”
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The priest expressed concern that militants in Nigeria are evolving in their tactics and are accessing sophisticated weapons.
He explained that “Just four days ago, the criminals downed an air force plane. So, we're no longer just dealing with ground level troops anymore. We're dealing with people who have the capacity to either launch grenades, rockets or something to bring down a fighter jet.”
The leadership of Nigeria “as presently constituted” has failed in protecting its people, he asserted, noting that at the moment the people can only trust in God.
“God alone is our trust because the government as presently constituted cannot even protect its own government officials not to talk of protecting Christians,” he said, adding, “Christians are the most vulnerable now since most of these bandits are determined to bring about Islamic rule.”
“As a Christian living in Northern Nigeria today, I do not have anything to look up to as anything coming from the government to be able to protect me,” Fr. Ehusani said.
He referred to the July 16 murder of Major General Hussaini Ahmed, saying, he “was brutally shot and killed on the road that he was traveling two hours away from Abuja.”