John Shiklam writes that normalcy seem to be gradually returning to crisis-ridden parts of Southern Kaduna, as prominent Nigerians proffer solutions to end the killings
After years of bloodshed and destruction of property in the Southern part of Kaduna State, peace seems to be gradually returning to the area, ravaged by invading suspected Fulani herdsmen.
The attacks started after the 2011 post election violence that led to the deaths of many people in the North.
Since then peace has eluded the area as armed bandits unleashed terror on rural communities, particularly in Kaura, Sanga, Jama’a and Zangon Kataf Local Government Areas of the state.
The Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, in recent statistics released, revealed that 808 people, mostly women and children were killed while property worth billions of naira were destroyed.
The Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, has disputed this figure, promising to investigate the killings, but the Vicar General of the Diocese, Rt. Rev. Fr. Ibrahim Yakubu, insisted that the church has evidence to prove its claim and challenged those disputing the figures to produce their evidence.
He said the killings spanned from the time the attacks started in 2011 to the end of 2016.
However the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) the umbrella union for the herdsmen, claimed its members were being unjustly accused of perpetrating the crisis in Southern Kaduna.
Assistant Secretary General of the association, Dr. Ibrhahim Abdullahi, at a news conference in Kaduna maintained that allegations against the herdsmen were merely fictitious.
According to him, herdsmen and their cows were also being killed by the Southern Kaduna people.
He said the herdsmen are being accused and maligned unjustly and “we think that it is time for us to make our stand and set the records straight for posterity.”
Abdullahi said the 2011 post election violence affected not only the indigenous Fulani in Southern part of Kaduna State but also herdsmen coming from other areas.
He called on the people of Southern Kaduna to forgive what had happened, noting that the crisis will never end unless both parties learn to forgive.
Some people have attributed reprisal attacks as one of the major reasons for the prolonged killings, however, a former Commissioner of Justice in Kaduna State, Mr. Mark Jacob dismissed such arguments saying that those making such claims were shying away from the truth.
Although security has been reinforced to the affected local governments areas and feelers from some communities in the area indicate that normalcy is gradually returning.
But it was learnt that in some communities, especially in Godogodo axis, people are still scared of being attacked as the herdsmen are believed to be in their hideouts in the bushes.
THISDAY gathered that combined efforts of the state and federal governments as well as prominent Nigerians went a long way in arresting the situation, although observers have continued to wonder why the authorities had allowed the carnage to last this long since 2011.
Among prominent Nigerians that have been in the forefront in ensuring peace in the four local four local governments areas affected by the crisis are former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Rt. Rev Matthew Kukah who comes from Southern Kaduna and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III (members of the National Peace Committee chaired by Abubakar), two former governors of Kaduna, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and Senator Ahmed Makarfi as well as the Primate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Kanu, among several others.
Abubakar, Kukah and the Sultan, during their visits to Governor Nasir el-Rufai, expressed deep concerns about the crisis and appealed for peace.
Abubakar noted that the clashes and killings were not only limited to Kaduna State, but it is something that is engulfing the country.
“We want to make sure that peace reigns in Nigeria; to make sure that people know that we are together. We have to live in peace with each other.
“There is no religion on earth or anywhere that preaches violence….
“One of the points that the governor drew our attention to is the way people take laws into their hands and they go scot free. This impunity must be checked,” the former Head of State said.
He promised to visit the affected areas to have meetings with traditional rulers and religious leaders from the area.
Also commenting, Bishop Kukah said the mission of the team was to try to bring peace.
“I convened the peace committee and what we are doing now is to try to bring about peace. We are looking at how we can achieve peace and stability.
“I think what the people of Kaduna State, including the government should be doing now is looking into how we can achieve peace and development and I think that is the reason why we have democracy,” the clergy man said.
He said “the killings are a very sad phase in our history, but I believe that we can get over it and we will get over it and come out much more stronger and committed to peace.”
But the Second Republic governor of the state, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, while condemning the crisis, said the crisis were caused by poverty, ignorance and failure on the part of elites from both the Southern and Northern parts of the state to work towards improving the condition of the people.
According to him, Southern part of the state consists of eight local government areas, but there is not a single industry in the area to provide employment opportunity for the youths.
“The industries that were established in the area during the Second Republic when I was governor were destroyed by the elites in Southern Kaduna in collaboration with their counterparts in Northern part of the state. So, with this situation, what do you expect?
“Secondly, the level of enlightenment in the Southern part of the state is much lower and therefore, it is very easy to manipulate people and engage them in self destruction,” he said.
He implored the “Southern Kaduna people to resist incitements from people from other parts of the country and join hands with some of the honest people they can identify in Kaduna North and Central parts of the state to end the crisis. Let’s come together as one and deal with those criminals,” Musa added.
Also, two-term governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi while appealing for peace, warned against politicising the crisis.
Makarfi whose eight years reign experienced bloody ethno religious crises urged the people to come together and proffer solutions to the lingering crisis instead of imputing political motives to the violence.
“It is a serious criminal issue and of course there may be matters that have to do with other things that may not be seen as criminality.
“Government must never politicise this; the people must never politicise this, irrespective of religious and ethnic background.
“Even those outside the state must never politicise this crisis, because if we attempt to politicise it, then the crisis will spread beyond Kaduna and that would be a disaster,” he said.
He commended the manner leaders and other stakeholders who stood up to handle the problem.
“We need a body of arbitrators composed of both sides of the divide that the people can have confidence in to try to stem the tide, broker some peace and listen to all sides and come up with ways and manners that we can re-establish stability and lasting peace in that area. It is something that requires collective efforts.
“I don’t want to look at it from PDP point of view, but I have been speaking with a lot of people from the area, both the ethnic groups, not minding whether they are of this tribe or that, this religion or that. They are all concerned about what is going on and nobody mentioned politics to me.
“I believe that some of them are also talking among themselves to see how they can be partners in restoring peace in the area. Because it is a terrible situation that must never be allowed.I believe that the solution should be community-based and with the support of the centre, the state government and other leaders, the problem should be brought to an end very soon,” the former governor said.
Also proffering solution to the crisis, the Primate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, Dr. Kanu, urged religious leaders to be in the forefront for promoting peace in Southern Kaduna.
Speaking in an interview shortly after he paid a courtesy visit to el-Rufai at the Government House, he regretted the utterances of some religious leaders, saying that such utterances will not bring about peace.
He maintained that the killings were callous, adding that it is dastardly for anybody to take human life.
“Everybody must learn to live together as Nigerians irrespective of our religion, tribe or ethnicity.
“We should avoid religious bigotry, we should avoid chauvinism and casting slur on others as if they are inferior. This nation is our common inheritance and we should promote love,” he emphasised.
He stressed that no development and growth can take place without peace.
“The Bible says you shall not kill and I know that Quran says the same so why should we kill? Why should we destroy property? I believe those misguided elements in the society are using religion to achieve their selfish goals.
“We pray that God should expose these people no matter who they are and no matter how highly placed they are. If we can fish them out and confine them somewhere, Nigeria will move on.
“My message to the people is that peace is more rewarding than crisis. Crisis is destructive, crisis is like tsunami, it’s like wild wind that does nobody good and affects everybody. So we can do well in an atmosphere of peace devoid of bitterness and rancour, that is what I advocate for,” the clergy man said.
El-Rufai’s neighbour in Plateau State, Governor Simon Lalong in a condolence letter to el-Rufai over the killings, urged stakeholders in the state to join hands and bring an end to the killings.
In the letter dated January 17, 2017, Lalong advocated for a partnership between the two states to ensure peace and stability.
Lalong whose state had also experienced series of bloody ethno religious clashes that led to massive killings and destruction of property advocated for the arrest and prosecution of those behind the crisis as a panacea for sustaining peace.
He expressed confidence that a partnership between Plateau and Kaduna, “giving our common resolve to ensure peaceful coexistence and a secure environment for all our citizens within our borders, will be attained sooner than later.”
He noted that “The loss of scores of people and the retrogression that the violence has occasioned in the various communities bring very sorry and painful memories of the decade of blood on the Plateau, which we have now overcome with the collective resolve of the people.”
Lalong said he was optimistic that Kaduna State will bounce back stronger as it has always come out of crises in the past to become the cosmopolitan hub of peaceful coexistence.
He appealed to all leaders to take a stand to become part of the solution and avail their goodwill, experience, and wisdom as vehicles for the speedy resolution of the conflicts.
According to Lalong, “violent crisis everywhere in the world return to the table of dialogue to be resolved and the people of Southern Kaduna must therefore tow this path of humanity in resolving their disputes.”
According to el-Rufai, since 1980 about 20, 000 people were reported killed in series of ethno religious crises that had rocked Kaduna State.
Regrettably, he said nobody was arrested and prosecuted for the dastardly acts.
Speaking when the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association paid him a courtesy visit, the governor declared that the solution to killings with impunity in the state is the enforcement of the law and prosecution of perpetrators.
He noted that apart from the Justice Benedict Okadigbo Tribunal on the Zango-Kataf Religious Crisis, no government had prosecuted anybody over their involvements in the various crises.
The governor vowed that all those found to be behind the recent killings in Jema’a, Zangon Kataf and Kaura Local Government Areas of the state would be fished out and prosecuted, adding that a number of arrests had been made with more to be arrested soon.
He also foreclosed the possibility of setting up any commission of inquiry on the Southern Kaduna crisis, saying there was no need for it.
“We need to enforce the rule of law in the state. I read all the reports which recommended the way out but there is no single person ever prosecuted to the later.
“We are determined to end the killings in Kaduna. Henceforth, the law will fully apply without fear or favour. We have made some arrests and you will be shocked to see the calibre of perpetrators that we are going to arrest and prosecute.
“No matter how highly the person is, we will bring him or her to face the full wrath of the law to serve as deterrent to others who may want to sponsor crisis.
“Some of the things you are hearing are not true. Some people have made up their minds to spread hatred and falsehood, especially in the media.
“Let me correct this impression, it is not the entire Southern Kaduna that is under attacks, we have problem in three local government areas now under control,” the governor said.
Southern Kaduna is blessed with abundant agricultural resources, sadly the killings have stunted economic and social activities in the area. It was learnt that imminent hunger is looming in some of the communities as their farm produce were said to have been burnt. The people have suffered for too long and the time had come to stop the attacks and let peace reign.