ABUJA - The killing of a Nigerian priest by Boko Haram has raised fresh concerns among Nigeria's Christian community that it is being targeted by the Islamist militants. The death came barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari urged Nigerians to stop viewing acts of terror as a "religious war."
The Reverend Lawan Andimi was declared missing January 3 after Boko Haram insurgents raided his village in Michika, in northeastern state of Adamawa.
He headed the state's chapter of the Christian governing body, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
The insurgents murdered him on Monday while negotiations for his release were ongoing — an event that has triggered widespread criticisms of the government by the Christian body.
Security analyst Ebenezer Oyetakin says the killing was intended to incite religious tensions between the two major religious groups in the country.
"The Muslims and the Christians in Nigeria and the citizens must know that the instrument these external forces and their internal collaborators are exploiting are our front lines. Front lines of tribes, religion and ethnicity. So the Nigerian people should unite against them," he said. "I personally as a Christian do not see the killing of the CAN chairman in Adamawa as a target against Christians. It is a target against the national exploiting our front lines."
Boko Haram often holds some captives on the basis of their faith while setting others free.
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, accuses authorities of not doing enough to secure the release of abducted Christians. Security expert Senator Iroegbu shares that opinion.
"You cannot lie that Christians are not targeted because that's the reality and you wouldn't say they should stop complaining," he said. "If the CAN chairman is kidnapped, if terrorists abduct people and segregate Christians and hold them captive, you won't say it's not there, it's there. So what are you doing to ensure that this set of people are not vulnerable to this kind of terrorist onslaught?"
Oyetakin says concerns about religious tensions can be avoided if the government was more proactive.
"The government must govern in such a way that regenerates a bond of national unity," he said.
Earlier this month, President Muhammadu Buhari urged Nigerians to stop seeing acts of terrorism as a "religious war."
On Tuesday, he reacted to the killing of the priest using his official social media account. The president said he was, "greatly saddened by the fact that the terrorists went on to kill him even while giving signals of willingness to set him free by releasing him to third parties. This barbarism is condemnable. We will ensure that these terrorists pay a heavy price for their actions."