"Kano is still in shock. The coordinated series of attacks in different parts of the city lasted about three hours", reported Catholic Bishop John Namazi Niyiring of Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria. It was there on the evening of January 20 that Boko Haram Islamist terrorists detonated bombs that killed at least 178 and injured hundreds more. A spokesman for a local hospital said on January 22 that he expected more deaths as a result of the bombs and so could not give a final death toll.
Bishop Niyiring described the dramatic hours thusly: "The attackers seemed well trained and wore camouflage uniforms like those used by the Mobile Police Force. This misled some civilians that directed themselves towards the terrorists, believing them to be policemen, and were killed without mercy. Among the targets hit with explosive devices are the headquarters of the Regional Police, the Security Service, Customs and Immigration Department, in addition to the police station.”
“After the bombs, the members of the commando started shooting all those who were in the vicinity of these objectives, in particular those who wore a uniform. A good number of terrorists were foreigners, especially from Niger and Chad. Some of these are probably foreigners waiting for legal regulation and were recruited by Boko Haram. Even some of the Catholic Church structures were damaged, but priests and religious were not affected. But we have news of some of our parishioners among the victims", concluded Bishop Niyiring.
Catholic Bishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigam of Jos, another northern city expressed fear of a civil war in oil-rich Nigeria. The bishop said, "They are destroying the hope of a united Nigeria and the only Nigerian people." The bishop alluded to what appears to be a population exchange now ongoing in Nigeria. He explained, "because of the terrorist acts on behalf of Boko several Nigerians from the south who live in the north regions are returning to their regions of origin, and even some Nigerians from the north who live in the south are coming home, for fear of reprisals."
Boko Haram has demanded that all Christians should leave northern Nigeria or face deadly force.
The issue of reforming Nigeria is widely debated in the media and by the public. For example, the Nigerian Tribune daily ran an article on January 23 entitled "Boko Haram: It's time to discuss our unity." Among those interviewed was Comrade Joseph Evah, National Coordinator of the Niger-Delta Economic Monitoring Group (NDEMG), who stated "It is clear that what the Boko Haram wants is beyond Islamic governments in the North (...). Let us not deceive ourselves. Boko Haram has sponsors all over the North and they include very powerful people from the region who see political power as their birthright".
The Secretary General of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Francis Williams, said "the issue goes beyond Boko Haram: our party had made its predictive position clear years back that until certain fundamental issues concerning the existence of Nigeria are discussed, we will be chasing shadows in trying to solve attendant problems. We must go back to the drawing board if Nigeria must remain one indivisible entity".
The crisis triggered by the Boko Haram attacks will be discussed at a conference of the leaders of southern Nigeria which will be held next week. Meanwhile, attacks by the Islamist sect continue. In Bauchi, in the north, two churches, of which one is Catholic, were hit with explosives on Sunday, January 22. The two buildings were empty and there were no victims, but one of the structures was completely destroyed. A couple of hours earlier, eight civilians - all Christians, as well as a police officer and a soldier were killed in a nearby location.