ABUJA - Muslim and Christian residents have cast doubts on media reports about mass exodus from northern Nigeria following attacks by the militant Boko Haram group.
While it is true that some people left North in the wake of December/January crisis which sparked fear of civil war, they have started returning back to the North, especially Kano, Olabisi Abidoye, a teacher in the Islamic city, told OnIslam.net.
It is worthy of note that those who left were mainly women and children who, perhaps out of safety, were asked by their men to leave in case of any eventuality.
But they have started returning, obviously because such exodus were done without any planning. The socio-economic condition may have forced many of them back here.
Western media have reported mass exodus of Igbo Christian traders from the north following attacks by Boko Haram.
But Abidoye denied the claim.
I think foreign media have made unnecessary sensational news out of it, she said.
We live here. If it were true, how come the Nigerian media, as biased as they are, are not reporting this so-called exodus?
Ikechi Agunlana, a 35-year-old Igbo trader, also denied the exodus, saying some Igbo traders who travelled home after a Boko Haram ultimatum are now returning to the north.
Yes it is true that some of us went home in January for fear of Boko Haram attacks, he said.
I travelled but I have since returned to my base.
The truth is that all of us, Christians and Muslims, are victims of Boko Haram crisis, Agunlana said.
It is a national malaise and until we address it as such, there will be continuous misconception. I am back to my business, hoping for the best.
Boko Haram, which means Western education is sinful, has escalated attacks in Nigeria in recent weeks.
The group originally said it wanted Shari`ah to be applied more widely across Nigeria but its aims appear to have changed.
The sect focuses its attacks mostly on the police, military and government, but has attacked Christians more recently.
It says it is fighting enemies who have wronged its members through violence, arrests or economic neglect and corruption.
Yunusa Yau, a prominent civil rights activist, has downplayed the mass exodus reports as exaggeration.
I think at the onset of the attacks some people left, but I don't think people are leaving now, Yau, who is a fellow of the Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), told OnIsam.net.
If people left and are coming back, it means that they have convinced themselves that the Boko Haram danger is not necessarily targeted at non-Muslims, he said.
The fact is that none of the attacks in Kano actually targeted non-Muslims. Indeed all attacks have happened at Police and other security agency targets. Civilians who have died were either as a result of crossfire or people who have died due to extrajudicial killings by security agents.
Baba Negedu Martins, a Christian journalist who resides in Adamawa in the North-east where Boko Haram attacks have been more virulent, termed the mass exodus reports as speculative.
For me, it remains at the level of speculation, he told OnIslam.net.
If the picture is as painted in the western media, we should see vehicle moving people of town or hearing it. There has been no such thing.
Asked if he considers the report baseless since there are no facts to back it up, he said: yes. It is still in the realm of speculation.
Chioma Oguwike, a 27-year-old female teacher, said none of her family members travelled out of their Kaduna base.
We see no reason to do that. This crisis has political undertone, it is not religious, she told OnIslam.net.
But when we breach agreement, this is what we see. That does not mean I am defending violence but our leaders should lead by example by honoring their words.Although the Boko Haram threat is real, I am afraid that franchise killings are far on the rise in the name of Boko Haram. That makes the whole crisis difficult to understand. But our leaders do not seem to be exploring this possibility.