John Shiklam in Kaduna
The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) has kicked against plans by the Kaduna state government to carve site grazing reserves for herdsmen in the area.
The union in a statement in Kaduna on behalf of the 65 ethnic nationalities in the southern part of the state and those in the Diaspora, declared that any move to give their ancestral lands to herdsmen in the name of grazing reserve would be stoutly resisted.
The statement, which was signed by the National President of SOKAPU, Solomon Musa, a lawyer, said the people of Southern Kaduna were still nursing their wounds from the persistent raiding, maiming, massacre and destruction of their property by herdsmen, noting that it was unfortunate that government would want to embark on such decision without regard to the sensibility of the people of the area.
“We reject this, we see the action as a severe provocation on us and to the thousands of others that have died in the hands of those that would be the main beneficiaries of these grazing reserves” the statement said.
SOKAPU also frowned on “the hasty manner the Kaduna State Government donated 5,000 hectares of land to the proposed Federal Government Grazing Reserves”, adding that the decision of the state government to reactivate about 17 Grazing Reserves, including moribund ones, is questionable.
Musa said the Southern Kaduna people would have wholeheartedly supported any scheme that would bring an end to the unwarranted attacks on communities in the area by herdsmen and their accomplices, pointing out however that the idea of bringing in the suspected aggressor to sit right in the midst of his victims would be viewed as an official encouragement for continuous assault on the people.
The statement reads in part: “On behalf of all the 65 ethnic groups of Southern Kaduna, both at home and in the diaspora we wish to state our opposition to the siting of grazing reserves within the Southern Kaduna geographical area for several disturbing reasons…
“Without prejudice to the power conferred on a state government to take custody of lands on behalf of the people, but there is really no inch of land in Southern Kaduna that is a no-man’s-land.
“Every community in Southern Kaduna has stock of its grassland, farms, valleys, forests, rivers, swamps and hills. We have strong emotional attachments to them, because they are all we have left for us by our ancestors who sacrificed so much to preserve them and pass them on to us.
“Any attempt to unfairly wrest them out of our hands shall be resisted by our generation and generations to come.
“Since one of the main reason of creating reserves for herdsmen borders on reduction of violent conflict between herdsmen and farmers, the weird logic being displayed through this scheme is that: any violent group that can sustain killing of citizens in its goal of advancing its economic status will be rewarded with the lands of its victims.
“We reject this, and see this action as severe provocation on us and to the thousands of others that have died in the hands of those that would be the main beneficiaries of these Grazing Reserves. It’s beyond belief that any serious government would desire to bring the sources of those violent attacks in proximity with the still suffering victims.
“The government has shown its willingness to adopt the identity of all inhabitants of the state on the basis of fairness and equality, but we find it curious why it would deliberately want to annex land and all its resources for the private profits of a private business venture. Pray! where is the required fairness?
“Since the Kaduna State Government has been harping on peace, unity and development of Southern Kaduna, which we really appreciate, it should be sensitive and sympathetic with the humongous disasters that herdsmen have wrought on our communities since 2011. Between 2011 and 2015, over a period of just four years, 54 documented attacks have been launched with over 4,000 people killed.
“In most of the affected communities, women and children have been killed and brutally murdered in a most barbaric manner. While in some cases they were hacked to death, in others they were burnt alive and or blown up with explosives. Ironically, it’s in a supposedly time of peace that we have had to bury our people in mass graves.
“These attacks have rendered thousands of people homeless, as their homes have been burnt, their places of worship destroyed and their food stores, barns and granaries burnt. What is even more, their water sources have also been polluted.
“They killed or dismembered some and throw them into wells! And the same people suspected of carrying out these genocide that has nothing to do with grass for cows, are the ones being given the government’s approval to sit on annexed land! Within communities that are completely agrarian.
“We expected the government to have carried out wide consultations and sample opinions of the people of Southern Kaduna. But from our Senator, members of the House of Representatives, Assembly members, SOKAPU, our royal fathers, down to tribal unions, none was consulted on the issue of Grazing Reserves. Our people survive on tilling our lands, and the herdsmen on their herds. How will it feel to take herds and give to farmers, if the farmers were the ones maiming the herdsmen?
“If the siting of the Grazing Reserves is mutually tied to investment potentials and other developmental incentives to our people, we are constrained to oppose it if the cost also includes human lives. This is because of the mutual suspicion that currently exists between our people and the herdsmen. We request the government to still go ahead with the developmental and investment aspect of the scheme but take the Reserves elsewhere.
“But if the government insists on having its way, then we can confidently tell the state government that this approach will not only radicalise discontent within our zone, but create more suspicion on the real move behind the grazing reserves and the killings that have been visited upon our people…,” the group added.