Southern Kaduna has again dominated the headlines for the wrong reasons in the last three weeks. From Zango Kataf to Kaura and Jema’a to Kauru scores have been killed in communal clashes amidst suspicion of ethnic cleansing, Abdulgafar Alabelewe reports.

Many communities across the three senatorial zones in Kaduna State are suffering serious security challenges. Birnin Gwari, Chikun, Igabi, Giwa, Kaduna South and Kaduna North local government areas are hotbeds of kidnapping. The bandits, who usually operate in large numbers and are armed with sophisticated weapons, have terrorised the residents of these communities, leaving them in perpetual fear.

However, Kaduna’s security challenges took another turn early July with the killing of many people in cold blood in the southern part of the state. The ugly situation reached a crescendo with the killing of 27 people within 24 hours between July 19 and 20 July in communities within Zango Kataf and Kaura local government areas.

On July 19, bandits attacked a wedding reception at a home in Kukum Daji village in Kaura at about 10.30pm, killing 21 persons and injuring about 30 others, mostly youths and teenagers. While injured survivors of the attack were receiving treatment in medical facilities in Kafanchan and Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital in Kaduna, another bloody attack was launched on Gora Gan village in Zangon Kataf around 7 pm on 20th July, leaving no fewer than nine persons dead and several others injured and displaced.

In the latest of the attacks, which occurred in Kukum Daji Village in Kaura Local Government Area in the night of last Sunday, no fewer than 21 people were killed while scores of others were injured. The attack left 19 people, mostly youths dead on the spot, while two others died on the way to the hospital.

The locals and the several voices representing Southern Kaduna interests have since alleged that the sad events in the area were about ethnic cleansing and parts of a grand plan to exterminate the predominantly Christian communities of Southern Kaduna and take over their lands. The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) noted that no fewer than 50 locals were killed in just a week in July while many houses were razed.

Fulani community blames renewed killings on locals.
However, the Fulani community, which is often blamed for the attacks, said that southern Kaduna locals were responsible for the renewed attacks. The Fulani community, which has enjoyed decades of peaceful coexistence with many tribal communities across the Southern Kaduna local governments, said they have in the recent past lost hundreds of kinsmen to unprovoked attacks by Southern Kaduna youths.

The Fulani community under the auspices of Coalition of Fulani Pastoralists Organisations alleged that more than 99 of their kinsmen were slaughtered and thousands of cows rustled by Kataf youths in Zango-Kataf and Kaura local government areas in June alone.

Nuhu Ibrahim, the Secretary General, Mobgal Fulbe Development Association, one of the groups that formed the coalition, alleged that some Atyap youths in the Atyap and Tsam chiefdoms of Zangon Kataf and Kauru LGAs carried out the killings, looting and the destruction of their property.

According to him, “The brutal acts of murder and arson committed by some Atyap youths in Atyap and Tsam chiefdoms of Zangon Kataf and Kauru LGAs led to the killing of 99 Fulani, the disappearance of another 139 persons and the looting and burning of 290 houses.”

In an interview with The Nation, Kaduna State Director of Media and Publicity, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Malam Ibrahim Bayero Zango, said that Zango Kataf youths should be blamed for the latest killings in Southern Kaduna, adding that the authorities should go after them and bring them to book.

Bayero Zango said innocent nomads were recently killed in the most inhuman manner in some parts Zango Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, particularly in some villages of Atyap Chiefdom like Ungwan Wakili, Ungwan Juju, Ungwan Gaiya, Gora Sagwaza, Antai, Asha Awuce, Gidan Zaki and Kibori.

According to him, the question that requires an answer is what is the relationship between the farmland dispute and the crisis that caused the killing of innocent Fulani nomads in the areas I mentioned earlier?

He said: “Two innocent Fulani nomads were killed at Ungwan Gaiya near the palace of the Chief of Kataf in the house of Alhaji Ja’e, who has been living in the area for almost a century.

“The two men that were killed are Abdullahi Ja’e and Pate Ja’e, who were in their early thirties. Another two young men with an elderly woman were killed at Ungwan Juju. Four others were killed at Gora Sagwaza and one person was killed at Matai.

“Some Kataf youths also waylaid and killed some Fulani nomads who were passing through the international cattle routes in the areas on their ways to Bauchi State. Their cattle and other belongings were destroyed or stolen by the blood-thirsty Kataf youths. The number of those that were killed and the sheep are yet to be confirmed.

“I can go on and on. So, the Kataf youths are responsible for the renewed attacks.

“I am however appealing to the government of Kaduna State to fish out the perpetrators of these barbaric and wanton killings and bring them to book.

“I am also calling on the international community to stand as witness to this brutality, mayhem and infamy against the innocent and productive Fulani nomads.

Killings are done for ethnic cleansing, says SOKAPU
The President of Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), Jonathan Asake, noted that Southern Kaduna was under siege by herdsmen militia whose plan is to wipe out the people of Southern Kaduna and take over their lands.

In an interview with The Nation, Asake said: “I have said it times without number that ethnic cleansing is going on in Southern Kaduna. We are in a situation where Fulani herdsmen militia continues to go from community to community across all the local government areas in Southern Kaduna, killing, maiming, destroying properties and raping women unabated.

“And we have a situation where these displaced communities are taken over by those that did it. They move in with their cattle from only God knows where. And the federal government is making no effort to prosecute these people who are moving about with AK47 and machetes.

“They hibernate in villages and the security will never go after them. It is only when the youths of the communities decide to go after them that they will now arrest the youths of the community and tell them they are the assailants. This is the injustice that our communities are facing.

“These attacks have continued in Chikun council, Kajuru council, Kauru, Jema’a, Zangon Kataf, and almost the whole Southern Kaduna area. In Chikun, several Gbagyi communities are still in dehuhumanising conditions.

“It is the same with Kajuru where 30 communities have been displaced and they are hanging around Kaduna and in neighbourinng communities. It is also the same story in Zangon Kataf.

“The destabilised people in the affected communities cannot go back to their places because their attackers are still around. They cannot go to farm or their houses or settlements. To crown it all, the authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew in Zangon Kataf, Kaura and Kauru.

“In some parts of Zangon Kataf, it has been up to eight weeks now that the curfew has been on. The curfew times have been the time the invaders are attacking the communities. So it means the curfew has not doused the situation. It appears to us in SOKAPU that the curfew was imposed to give the invaders more chance to invade.

“Even when some of them are apprehended by the community youths, they are only paraded and that is all. Example is the ones that were arrested when they went to attack in Matsriga, killed and wounded several people.

“Members of the community chased and apprehended them and handed them over to security agents. They were paraded but we don’t know if they have been taken to court.

“And then you hear this statement from the governor and the commandant of Operation Safe Haven confirming our fears that the authorities are complicit in the attacks that are being carried out in Southern Kaduna.

“They said that it is a conflict between two rival of Atyap youth and Fulani. That is the statement from governor and the Commandant of Operation Safe Haven. That is also the statement from Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity.

“So it would appear that Garba Shehu, the Kaduna State Government House and the security represented by Operation Safe Haven are in concert in the conspiracy against the people of Southern Kaduna,” he said.

Asked the difference between the insecurity in the southern part of Kaduna and other parts of the state, Asake said: “The truth about it is that the Birnin Gwari that you are talking about, the insecurity there is still part of Southern Kaduna because most of the communities there fall under Chikun Local Government Area.

“For instance, Buruku, Batna and so on are all under Gbayi communities. These places are under SOKAPU.

“If you talk about Giwa and Igabi, how many times have they come under attack compared to what is going on in Southern Kaduna? In that of Igabi, the governor went there and apologised to them, saying he was sorry that he had not protected them enough.

“But I cannot count how many invasions have been carried out in Southern Kaduna without a single word of sympathy from the governor. He has not even gone to see the people. Is that the kind of leadership we are supposed to have?

“He is a governor and he should be a governor for all, irrespective of their political, ethnic and religious affiliations. When it happens in other parts, he extends his sympathy, but when it is Southern Kaduna, he looks away.

“Also, when I hear people in government say it is a communal clash, or it is a farmer/herder clash, it is totally laughable. The gory pictures of children you see being hacked to death, do they look like people who were armed? Were they killed in the farm?

“They were killed in their sleep at night. And the people who come to kill them, do they come with cattle? No, they come with rifles and machetes. So, something is happening, and that is why I said there is a conspiracy and the agenda is to take the land of the people of Southern Kaduna by force.

“And the government is making deliberate policies to take those lands and give them to the same invaders. That is why government is making grazing reserves exclusively for Fulani in all areas of Southern Kaduna. It has been going on.”

The SOKAPU President said the solution to the killings in Southern Kaduna is to come out clean, adding that “if they must come out clean, number one, they should bring the perpetrators of these crimes to book and return the indigenous land owners who were chased out of their lands and resettle them. It begins with justice, fairness and equity.

“Also, the communities should empower their own vigilantes to defend themselves against these invaders. That is what was done in Burkina Faso since the government does not have enough resources to be in every community.

“At least I have heard the governor saying the same thing that policemen cannot be in every community. So, that is the way out,” he said.

Government dismisses ethnic cleansing claim
The state government and the security agencies have however dismissed the insinuation of ethnic cleansing, saying that the killings in the area are results of attacks and reprisals.

The Commander of Operation Safe Haven, a military outfit combating insecurity around Kaduna State, Major General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, who addressed journalists after a high level security meeting in Kaduna last Tuesday, stated that the killings in Southern Kaduna are perpetrated by criminal elements on both sides and so is not about ethnic cleansing.

According to him, ”both sides of the conflict have been attacking each other, but the reports are not balanced. Perhaps, most of the media houses don’t know. Both sides are actually involved. You have Kataf youths, Fulani militias and the criminal elements on both sides. Some people are also leveraging on the security situation to perpetuate their criminal activities, aside the communities involved in the crisis.

“Any incident is enough to spark off crisis in Southern Kaduna, because there have been lingering disputes and animosities, banditry and cattle rustling in the area.

“There is need for the communities to embrace peace. On our part, we will create the conducive environment for them to meet dialogue and resolve issues so that they can continue to live together as they have been living together.”

While noting that the communities are far apart with terrains that are difficult to navigate with vehicles, he said besides getting more troops deployed to shorten their response time, they were re-strategising.

Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i on his part said that his administration has done everything within its constitutional powers to ensure peace in Southern Kaduna and all parts of the state for over five years.

El-Rufai said: “We answered the decades old demand for a permanent military base by working with the Federal Government to deploy a forward operating base of the Nigerian Army in Kafanchan.

“Our government purchased an estate to provide accommodation for a permanent mobile police squadron in the area. Also deployed in the area are troops from Operation Safe Haven and Nigerian Army Special Forces, complemented by two mobile police squadrons.”

The Governor however said that in spite of these measures, the best guarantee for peace is the willingness of communities to live in peace and harmony, and a resolve to settle differences through exclusively lawful means.

El Rufai added that his government ”established the Kaduna State Peace Commission to engage communities and nudge them towards accord and reconciliation as a better alternative to the breaking of bones and the shattering of lives.’’

He however lamented that, the current crisis is as a result of the tragic aftermath of events of June 5, 2020 when youths from two communities clashed over farmlands in Zangon-Kataf and the upsurge of violence in the same area that started on June 11, 2020.

“Like an unwanted virus, the violence has spread to and has necessitated extraordinary measures in four local government areas in Southern Kaduna,” he added.

El Rufai promised that his government ”will also continue invest effort in the urgent necessity to create and sustain a constituency for peace by persuading elected officials, traditional rulers and community leaders in the affected areas to live up to their responsibilities, respect diversity and the rule of law.

“We have nudged stakeholders in Kauru and Zangon-Kataf LGAs on this path and will continue to do so.
“We have also resolved to address lingering issues from the 1992 crisis in Zangon-Kataf by producing a White Paper on the recommendations made by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry and the Reconciliation Committee.’’

The governor lamented that ‘’so much unhelpful narrative is being spun, but the priority is to stop the bleeding and encourage communities to live in peace.

A security analyst and public affairs commentator, Mr. Matthew Akinola, said although there is a long standing animosity between the Hausa/Fulani community and the indigenous people of Southern Kaduna, the recent spate of killings were results of mismanagement of the banditry and kidnapping in the North-West.

Akinola said: “I have worked in peace building in states of the North, especially Kaduna and Plateau. I have come to understand that there is decades of misunderstanding among the settlers and indigenes of Southern, if I may use that to qualify them.

“The crises were caused by several reasons including farmer/herders conflicts and compounded by the Zango-Kataf crisis of 1992, the Shari’a crisis of 2000 and the Miss World crisis.

“This is the background on which every other crisis in Southern Kaduna since then is easily fueled. There is anger and mutual suspicion among the parties.”

culled from:THE NATION