Written by Isaiah Benjamin
Several segments of the society including individuals, organisations, traditional and religious groups have given different opinions as to the causes and solutions of the unabated killings in Southern Kaduna, a part of Kaduna State.
The governments both federal and state equally gave their sides of the story and attempted to proffer solutions which invariably had not yielded the desired results and the killings have continued.
Although so many people have attempted to give the killings some religious colouration, others view it as an attempt to depopulate the area and reduce their political relevance. Southern Kaduna is a Christian-dominated area.
For some others particularly the locals, the attackers are carrying out the killings and destruction of their properties to possibly take over their land which they claim is very fertile. While the locals allege that it is the Fulani militia men that are killing their people and destroying their homes with the view to wanting to take over their fertile land, the Fulani groups on their part, insinuate that the locals are killing their people in an attempt to chase them away in the area where some of them were born and have lived for several years.
In all of these insinuations, the fact remains that innocent people are being killed with reckless abandon while properties of unimaginable monetary value are being destroyed.
The crisis in Southern Kaduna dated back to the 80’s specifically in 1987, 1992 then 2000 and ever since these periods; the area has never remained the same. This is because ever since, the area has witnessed one violent act or the other leading to killings and destruction of properties.
Although the government has attributed the killings and attacks as either revenge or reprisals, that assertion has generated mixed feelings.
In 1987, a dispute erupted between students from different ethnic and religious groups in Kafanchan, and the violence spread to several other towns and areas. In February and May 1992, in what became known as the Zangon-Kataf crisis, there were clashes in Zangon-Kataf between the Hausa and the Kataf (a predominantly Christian ethnic group). Initially sparked off by a dispute over the relocation of a market, the killings of Hausa by Kataf were followed by reprisal killings of Christians by Muslims, including in several other parts of Kaduna State.
Protests in the wake of the state’s decision in 2000 to impose Sharia rule resulted in violence in Kaduna, Gwantu and Fadan Kagoma. Then Nigeria’s hosting of the Miss World beauty pageant in 2002 led to.dflkihi protests by Muslims across Northern Nigeria, violence in parts of Kaduna, and perhaps most infamously, politically motivated violence in Zaria, Kaduna, Zonkwa and Kafanchan in the wake of the 2011 presidential election led to the burning of churches, mosques, homes, the Kafanchan market, and a heavy death toll. In that year, there were at least 13 separate reports of ethno-religious clashes in the state.
In the half decade since 2010, there have been a steady increasing number of violent clashes between the various groups in Kaduna. In all of these crises, particularly the Zangon-Kataf crisis, lots of lives were claimed. That part of the state has never witnessed peace as killings and destruction of properties kept re-occurring. The reoccurrence, many said, is because perpetrators have never been prosecuted in spite of many commissions of inquiries set up to look into the various crises most especially that of the Zangon-Kataf in particular.
Kaura, Kauri, Kajuru, Kachia, Jema’a, Sanga all have equally experienced one form of attack or the other in recent past.
The killings have received series of condemnation particularly when the federal and state governments averred that the recurring killings in Southern Kaduna were either due to revenge or reprisal.
Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State chapter Reverend John Joseph Hayab, faulted the position of the federal government on the crisis and killings in Kaduna State particularly in Southern Kaduna, stressing that twisting the facts is certainly not a way out.
In a statement he personally signed, he noted that in the past weeks, there had been reports of killings, especially in the southern part of Kaduna State with the most recent massacres at Kukum Daji and Gora Gan put at 33 deaths, aside from the scores who were in hospitals receiving treatment from various degrees of gunshots.
According to Hayab, “Instead of the Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria stepping in to find a lasting solution, it is unfortunate that it has resorted to twisting the truths.
“One of the twists is the provocative claims credited to the Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the President of Nigeria, Mr Garba Shehu, on the 21st July 2020 that “the problem in Southern Kaduna is an evil combination of politically-motivated banditry, revenge killings and mutual violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious grounds.
“As if the above misconception is not enough, Shehu Garba further misinforms the Nigerian and the international community that “Southern Kaduna enjoys comprehensive security deployments, including the Army, Special Forces of both the Army and the Air Force, surveillance aircraft by the Air Force and mobile police units that are on the ground on a 24-hour basis to forestall criminality and keep the peace.
“Were it to be true that the southern part of Kaduna enjoys security surveillance as claimed as by Mallam Garba Shehu, where were the security personnel when people were attacked in Atyap and Chawai chiefdoms during the state’s imposed curfew and the fresh attacks at Kukum Daji in Kagoro Chiefdom as well as at Gora Gan in Atyap Chiefdom?
“Consequently, CAN Kaduna State Chapter as a body finds the statement by Shehu Garba unwarranted and views it as a misdirected attempt towards giving a dog a bad name to hang it.
“The position of CAN is that the killings of innocent lives, maiming and destruction of lives and property across the nation, particularly the fresh attacks in the southern part of Kaduna State, have reached an extraordinary height and are a matter of grave concern, hence, requires that the FG takes a proactive approach instead of taking sides.”
Rev. Hayab reiterated that: “CAN believes that the government needs to apply the principle of justice for all in addressing this and other conflicts bedeviling the country. This principle will ensure that all citizens are treated equally. The government should not expect CAN to be silent, and watch more lives being wasted by some militia groups.
“Moreover, the government must not attempt to twist the facts to make a serious matter look like a drama. The government’s attitude simply assists criminals killing innocent citizens to be viewed as the victims.
“Aside from the degree of endless destruction of lives and property and government’s complicit response, CAN wish to unequivocally assert that the government has not done enough to stop the never-ending attacks nor has it demonstrated guaranteeing steps to arrest the aggressors.
“Besides, the government’s posture, evidenced in Shehu Garba’s 21st July 2020 release, is an indictment on the government at all levels, considering that its fundamental duty is the protection of the lives and property of all citizenry and not only a section.”
Accordingly, CAN called the government to stop taking sides and act promptly in apprehending the marauders of death before hapless communities are exterminated adding that it is even more painful to note that a record of the recent deaths is the youth, the leaders of our of collective future, demonstrating that Nigeria’s future is bleak.
“The government, whose primary obligation is to safeguard the lives of the people must not allow its communities to be desolate due to insecurity, especially that casualty rate is soaring to deliberate genocide.
“A stitch in time saves nine. The federal, state and local governments must wake up to its role of safeguarding its people now or be deemed complicit in the genocide ongoing in the southern part of Kaduna state and in Nigeria as a whole” he stated.
In the same vein, the Kaduna State House of Assembly Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus condemned all attacks and killings in southern part of the state and described the federal and state governments’ response to the killings as passive and nonchalant.
Hon Emmanuel Bako Kantiok who read the text of the PDP caucus said the latest of the unfortunate justification of these attacks on the people of Southern Kaduna is in the press statement credited to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, where he said that “the problem in Southern Kaduna is an evil combination of politically motivated banditry, revenge killings and mutual violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious grounds.
“We are saddened by the spate of attacks, killings and kidnappings in southern part of Kaduna, particularly in Chikun, Kajuru, Kaura, Sanga, Kauru and Zangon-Kataf Local Government Areas and Kaduna State as a whole.
“It is on record that since the inception of this administration in 2015, Southern Kaduna has not known peace as a result of incessant attacks by armed militia with the resultant consequences of loss of lives and properties.
“It is evident from the press statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President that there was no attempt at all to condemn the attacks on the people of Southern Kaduna nor was there any attempt even pretentious to commiserate with the bereaved, injured and those who lost their properties due to no fault of theirs.”
The lawmakers further averred that the silent and in-action of the Kaduna State Government in these recent attacks in Kajuru, Kaura and Zango-Kataf Local Government Areas is more worrisome.
“As elected representatives of our people, we are worried that these attacks, massacre and destruction of properties particularly in Southern Kaduna are unabatingly and we have a responsibility to remind the government to live up to its responsibilities.”
Kantiok equally called on the people of Southern Kaduna to remain vigilant, calm, law abiding and avoid taking the laws into their own hands. Every citizen has a responsibility to co-operate with the law enforcement agents and to provide information, he added.
“We condemn all the attacks and killings no matter their nature or motive and however, we urge that the attacks should not be justified on the guise of reprisal.”
Similarly, the Northern States Christian Elders Forum (NOSCEF) and Southern Kaduna Christian Leaders Association (SKCLA) also condemned in the strongest term the continued killings in Southern Kaduna, stressing that the justification of the attacks by the federal and state governments would only embolden the attackers.
A separate statement issued by the two groups and signed by Engr. Ejoga Inalegwu chairman NOSCEF and Bishop Simon Peters Mutum chairman SKCL both said it was rather unfortunate for government to give excuses for the recurring attacks and killings instead of providing solutions.
Bishop Mutum said, “As Christians and Christian leaders, we are worried over the state of things – the state of our people and the nation at large.
“Southern Kaduna area has suffered economic, political and social marginalization from the period of the colonialists: pre-independence as well as post-independence eras. The fact of neglect, revealed in lack of physical development and is there on the ground, for anyone who cares to see.
“A careful study shows that the factors of religion, land and ethnicity are the tools used in the past, and still being deployed, to the disadvantage of our people in Southern Kaduna.
“To ensure the protection of these foot soldiers, the political structure of the state has long been hijacked and skewed against us. Political delineation of constituencies in areas with high Christian population always has a predetermined pattern.”
The NOSCEF expressed similar notions.
Also, the Zango Urban Development Association (socio-cultural Association representing the interest of the Hausa/Fulani Community in Atyap Chiefdom) condemned in strong terms the perennial disruption of peace in their community located in Zangon Kataf Local Government area of Kaduna State.
The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) and other associations that speak for the Fulanis like the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) Kaduna State chapter in a statement by Ibrahim Bayero Zango have also engaged in war of words over who did what and why particularly over the very recent crisis.
The Fulani community often fingered by the locals as the assailants has said Southern Kaduna locals were responsible for the renewed attacks.
The Fulani community who has enjoyed decades of peaceful coexistence with several tribal communities of Southern Kaduna across the local governments said, they had 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, over 99 of their kinsmen were slaughtered and thousands of cows rustled by the Kataf youths in Zango-Kataf and Kaura local government areas in June alone.
Secretary General, Mobgal Fulbe Development Association, one the groups that formed the coalition, Nuhu Ibrahim, alleged that, some Atyap youths in the Atyap and Tsam chiefdoms of the 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 the 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.”
Also in an interview, the Kaduna State director of Media and Publicity, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Malam Ibrahim Bayero Zango said the Zango Kataf youths should be blamed for the latest killings in Southern Kaduna and that the authorities should go after them and bring them to book.
Zango said innocent nomads were recently killed in the most inhumane 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 to be answered is, “what is the relationship between the farmland dispute and the crisis which caused the killings of the innocent Fulani nomads in the areas I mentioned earlier? 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 were Abdullahi Ja’e and Pate Ja’e who were in their early 30s. 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 by through the International Cattle Routes, which crosses 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 is 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 for prosecution. 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.”
Then the state government in her wisdom decided to set up a white paper draft committee to look into the various commissions of inquiry committees reports. Again, while the Atyap Community Development Association (ACDA) from Zango Kataf faulted the setting up of the white paper committee, the Zangon Urban Development Association welcomed it.
The Atyap people said that, implementation of Air vice Marshal Usman Muazu reconciliation committee’s report, is the best solution to putting an end to the killings in their area.
They averred that, among the Muazu committee’s recommendation which is key to bringing a lasting peace in the area is the establishment of an irrigation farm between the Zango urban and other Atyap communities.
The community leaders who were represented by the development association’s secretary general, Sule Tinat Bodam, also said that, the Atak/Jei residential layout proposed by the Architect Namadi Sambo’s administration, if implemented will foster unity among the Atyap and Hausa/Fulani communities. They opined that the Rahila Cudjoe commission of inquiry’s report should not be ignored by the Governor El-Rufai’s government in the search for lasting peace.
The Atyap people hinged their call for the implementation of the previous white paper reports on the claims of the El-Rufa’i’s government that, the aforementioned reports have not received comprehensive response or attention.
They said that, instead of Kaduna State government to implement Cudjoe and Muazu committees’ reports, it set up another white paper committee, describing it as calculated at misinforming the public about the issue.”
ACDA who also frowned at the government’s claims that “no White Paper was drafted” by the administrations that set up the Cudjoe Commission and AVM Usman Muazu Reconciliation Committee, saying that, “it is not true that a White Paper was not produced on the AVM Muazu Committee report.
“What did el-Rufai government seek to achieve by drafting a White Paper over a report whose recommendations were implemented by the Federal and Kaduna State governments, and on which any other remaining issues have been overtaken by events, unless the el-Rufai administration has other ulterior motives for setting up its White Paper Committee.
“From the foregoing it is manifestly clear that the El-Rufai government of Kaduna State has no justifiable reason to set up another White Paper Drafting Committee when the recommendations of the Justice Rahila Cudjoe Commission have been fully implemented.
“Also, the government of Kaduna State had already produced a White Paper from the AVM Muazu Reconciliation Committee Report, which past governments of Kaduna State had been implementing since 1995.
“The only outstanding issues on this White Paper are: The actualisation of the Buffer Zone, the actualisation of the irrigation project, actualisation of the Atak Jei Residential Layout which was produced and approved on 12th April 2010 by the former Governor of Kaduna State, Architect Mohammed Namadi Sambo which will foster integration in the Community as envisaged by the AVM Usman Muazu Committee.
“We believe that, if the outstanding issues on this White Paper, like the actualisation of the Buffer Zone, where the Irrigation Project that will serve both the Atyap and Hausa/Fulani communities, as well as the Atak/Jei Residential Layout are implemented, there will be lasting peace in our communites,” Atyap community emphasised.
The Zango Urban Development Association of Zango Kataf local government area of Kaduna State on their part said, the setting up of white paper committee by Governor Nasir el-Rufai is a step in the right direction towards finding a lasting solution to the recurring crisis in the area.
The spokesman of the association Dr. Salisu Mohammad who read the text signed by the Secretary General of the association Muhammad Umar recently expressed worries with the lingering crisis that has led to killings and destruction of properties over the years.
According to the association, the lingering crisis day in day out is a clear indication that true reconciliation between the Kataf and Hausa community has not been achieved. The association therefore faulted the position of the Atyap Community Development Association (ADCA) that there was no violent conflict in Zangon Kataf on the 11th June 2020 where several persons were killed.
“It is not only mischievous but wickedness to the world that Zango town was completely rebuilt and compensation paid. We challenge ACDA to produce evidence of these lies. We the people of Zango Urban District support the effort of the present administration of Governor Nasiru el-Rufai in setting up the white paper committee as the right step in finding lasting solutions to the recurring circle of violence in the area.”
Severally, there has been much condemnation of the attacks and killings, imposition of curfew, deployment of security personnel including military base and recent nude protest by women from the southern Kaduna area with the youths staging protest also. The killings took the front burner of many discussions on television, editorials, radio programmes and at State and National assembly.
In any case and in the present circumstance, the question of who did what and why should not be given all the attention but instead what should be the solution is what requires all the attention now, in other words, the blame game must be avoided.