Hundreds of residents of Potiskum reports say are fleeing their homes following series of attacks that have left at least 31 dead and many buildings and properties burnt by Boko Haram in the last three days.
Potiskum had been under security lockdown since last Thursday with troops patrolling the streets and residents keeping in-doors for fear of new attacks. A relaxed security on Sunday morning meant residents had time to flee the restive city.
“A lot of people are leaving the city following the relaxing of the lockdown on the city by soldiers this morning,” said Hassan, a resident of Potiskum.
“Hundreds of residents, especially those living on the outskirts of the city, which have been worst hit by the attacks, are fleeing with their belongings.”
“Those of them with personal cars are stuffing personal belongings into their vehicles and heading out of the city, while others are taking buses and taxis at the garage and along the main road, heading south,” he said.
Hassan said he was already planning on leaving the restive city in the coming days.
Speaking to reporters, a fleeing resident, Hamisu Nababa, said he was leaving with his entire family.
“My wife and three children are in trauma from the attacks and want a change of environment where they can have peace,” he said, adding they were heading to Kaduna, some 600 kilometres to the west, to stay with a relation.
“Many people are leaving now that the military has opened the road and allowed people to move in and out of the city,” he added.
The town has been seriously hit with attacks by Boko Haram Islamists that occurs almost every day in recent weeks, prompting heavy deployment of troops and armoured vehicles to curb the violence and ensure fresh violence does not ensue. The attacks which began on Thursday left at least 31 people dead and several buildings destroyed.
According to a resident, Bukar Kolo, soldiers have beefed up security in the city.
“Vehicles are thoroughly searched and passengers frisked at every checkpoint. Pedestrians passing by checkpoints have to raise their hands to be sure they are not concealing weapons,” he said.
He also said most churches were closed as worshippers kept away for fear of attack.
“Christian residents stayed home for safety reasons. A church was also burnt in the attack and people are afraid to go for Sunday church service for fear of possible attack,” he said.
Boko Haram’s insurgency in northern Nigeria has led to loss of several lives and has crippled the economy of the north. More than 2, 800 lives are believed to have been lost to the attacks and the military’s response since 2009.