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A Nigerian diocese continues to live in the shadow of Boko Haram--and life is cheap
Right now, the Damaturu-Maiduguri highway is the lifeline bringing supplies to more than 1 million displaced people hunkering down in the diocese
By Father Gideon Obasogie
NEW YORK—Security arrangements make travel through the Diocese of Maiduguri extremely cumbersome—and dangerous. Our people are being massacred daily!
Commuting along the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, the region’s main axis, was halted again for the fourth time in a week recently, as security forces take measures to keep travelers from driving into an ambush by the bloodthirsty insurgents. I took my turn the other day.
What I found were numerous burned out cars and deserted villages, their inhabitants having fled for fear of ongoing attacks which are continuing to take place. Boko Haram has stepped up its raids in recent weeks and our biggest fear is that our diocese will be cut off from the rest of the country. During the past year, Boko Haram has already destroyed four of the five bridges that connect the Maiduguri Diocese to the outside world. The group has also planted landmines which have killed a number of people already.
Right now, the Damaturu-Maiduguri highway is the lifeline bringing supplies to more than 1 million displaced people hunkering down in the diocese. Naturally, there is grave concern that this still relatively safe access route will be cut off before long. Our hope is that the army will be deployed to the city of Benisheik, 60 miles from the regional capital of Maidugui, to protect the bridge that keeps the highway—which is used by thousands of people every day—intact.
Communities along the vital highway are under grave threat. On July 14, mobilizing more than a 100 fighters, Boko Haram hit the village of Mainok, in Borno state. The rampage killed more some 40 people, and left hundreds of homes in ashes. The terrorists even returned shortly after the attack to mow down villagers who were brave enough to return to survey the damage and bury the dead. Boko haram on July 16 also attacked the villages of Warsala and Ngamdu in the same area—also targeting travelers on nearby roads—leaving more than a dozen dead.
After four major attacks in the area in just the past week, the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway is becoming a dead zone. We pray that troops will be deployed to stop this massacre. There are still a good number of helpless citizens—Catholic laity and priests—who are forced to travel along the highway every day. May our Blessed Lady, Queen of the highway, protect them.
Father Obasogie is in charge of communication for the Diocese of Maiduguri, the See hardest hit by Boko Haram.
The Maiduguri-Damaturu highway; photo courtesy Diocese of Maiduguri, Nigeria