By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency as northern parts of Africa's most populous nation amid mounting concerns about attacks by Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, against especially the Christian population.
Several borders remained closed Sunday, January 1, as part of what officials called "temporary security measure".
Boko Haram, which means 'Western education is a sin' in the Hausa language, claimed responsibility for Christmas Day bombings at several churches and other attacks that left at least 40 people dead.
The group says it wants to impose Sharia, or Muslim law, across the country.
Adding to the government's concerns were reports that ethnic violence between Ezza and Ezilo groups erupted in the eastern state of Ebonyi, killing at least 50 people on Saturday, December 31. News reports said the violence began over farmland disputes, apparently unrelated to Boko Haram.
Nigerian Christians mourned their dead Monday, December 26, after at least 35 people died in a Christmas Day bombing at a Catholic Church and at least four others in similar blasts.
Hundreds of mourners attended the memorial service in the attacked St. Theresa Church in the town of Madalla, near capital Abuja, surrounded by armed soldiers and bloodstained walls, witnesses said.
The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church volatile in the religiously mixed town of Jos, the capital of Nigeria's central Plateau state, and another church in Gadaka town in the northern Yobe state, were among other targets of attacks on Christmas Day.
In a statement, President Jonathan, a Christian, said he puts measures in place to restore order in the troubled nation, especially in the north where most anti-Christian attacks happened.
"The crisis has assumed a terrorist dimension by attacking institutions of government, including the United Nations building a and places of worship becoming targets of terrorist attacks," he said. "While the search for a lasting solution is ongoing, it has become imperative to take decisive measures necessary to restore normalcy in the country, especially within the affected communities," the president added.
"Consequently, I have in the exercise of the powers conferred on me by the provisions of 305, of subsection one of the constitution, declared a state of emergency."
Jonathan also stepped up security by creating a counter-terrorism force and closing borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, after he was criticized for not doing enough to protect Christians.
"The temporary closure of our borders in the affected areas is only an interim measure designed to address the current security challenges and will be resumed as soon as normalcy is restored," said the president.
The country of 150 million is about evenly divided between Muslims, who mostly live in the north, and Christians who dominate in the south. Hundreds of others have died this year in bomb blasts and shootings blamed on Boko Haram, many of them Christians.