The Boko Haram crisis has caused Nigerians to flee in droves to neighbouring Cameroon to escape the bloody violence by the dread Islamic sect.
Boko Haram has claimed to be fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria’s north, but its demands have varied.
The sect claimed responsibility for January 20 coordinated bombings and shootings in Kano that left at least 185 people dead.
The group also claimed responsibility for the August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in the capital Abuja which killed at least 25 people.
“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.
It 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.
“Many Nigerians like me 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.
It is difficult to gauge the exact number of Nigerians who have fled to Cameroon as they cross the border illegally, but there are easily dozens sheltered here since the attacks and tit-for-tat ripostes by Christians.
Mahamat Tujani, a Muslim trader from Maiduguri, fled to Kousseri near Fotokol.
“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”.
“When you scent 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.