Boko Haram has killed at least 500 Catholic priests in Nigeria, says bishop

A cross sign inscribed at the entrance of a room is seen chiseled in a compound once occupied by Boko Haram in Michika in Adamawa state, Nigeria, May 10, 2015. | Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye

A Catholic bishop in Nigeria has claimed that Boko Haram militants have killed at least 500 priests in Borno state over the past few years.

Most Rev. Oliver Doeme, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, revealed last Wednesday that in 2014 alone, Boko Haram had set 250 Catholic churches in the North-East ablaze, rendering 25 priests and 40 nuns homeless.

The bishop noted that the terror group had displaced 80,000 Catholics, while 64,000 have fled into Cameroon.

Over 50 Catholic catechists have been displaced in the states of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno during the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency, according to NAIJ.

The bishop asserted that some influential and selfish Nigerians are behind the Boko Haram sect. He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the successful counter-terrorism campaign against the insurgent group in the North-East. He also praised the military for its efforts to fight the insurgents, saying, "the battle against Boko Haram should not be limited to the physical realm but it needs to be fought in the spiritual realm for it is a demonic attack."

Doeme, who described the rise of Boko Haram as an "offshoot of corruption" in Nigeria, urged Christian groups to take part in the rebuilding plan in the North-East.

"If the churches have been part of assisting the victims of the insurgency, they should equally be involved in the rebuilding plan," said the bishop.

In February, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state released a report detailing the statistics of deaths and material losses caused by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Community leaders have estimated that the insurgency has led to the deaths of almost 100,000 people. The report also revealed that 2,114,000 people have been displaced as of December 2016.

As many as 158,201 are situated in official camps while 537,815 are in separate camps. Another 379,614 are residing at 15 satellite camps in Ngala, Monguno, Bama, Banki, Pulka, Gwoza, Sabon Gari and other locations in the state. At least 73,404 have been forced to become refugees in neighboring Niger and Cameroon.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has recently expressed its intentions to sell up to 12 light attack aircraft to Nigeria to support the fight against Boko Haram.

The proposed sale was canceled by the administration of former President Barack Obama in January after a Nigerian fighter jet targeting Boko Haram militants accidentally bombed a camp for displaced people. But Trump indicated that he would take another look at the sale in a telephone conversation with Buhari in February.

"President Trump expressed support for the sale of aircraft from the United States to support Nigeria's fight against Boko Haram," the White House said in a statement after the call.