The military operations flagged off last month by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Southern part of Kaduna State may have begun to engender the much needed peace, writes John Shiklam
Peace seems to be gradually returning to the southern part of Kaduna State following a recent launching of a military operation codenamed: “Operation Harbin Kunama II” on April 19, 2017 by the Nigerian army. In the past five years, armed bandits had been terrorizing the area, killing and destroying property.
Hundreds of people, mostly women and children were said to have been killed during the attacks, while property estimated at billions of naira were said to have been destroyed following the frequent invasion of villages by the herdsmen.
Those who survive the attacks were rendered homeless while their farms were destroyed and the farmlands often taken over by the herdsmen. Worst affected by the killings were communities in Kaura, Sanga and Jama’a local government areas. But the launch of operation “Harbin Kunama II” was the latest security strategy aimed at stopping the killings.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, while speaking during the exercise said the aim was to ensure that Southern Kaduna was kept safe. He said with the operation, there would no longer be any hiding place for armed bandits in the state.
He explained that the exercise was specifically meant to dislodge the herdsmen out of their hideouts in the bushes and on top of the hills, noting that the operation would last one month during which “the troops would go into the nooks and crannies of this area, the hills and valleys to flush out all the criminals, bandits and cattle rustlers, including kidnappers.”
He stressed that the army would continue to coordinate its activities to ensure that communities understand each other so as to provide the needed security and the right atmosphere for economic and social activities to thrive.
The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who was at the flag-off, while regretting the killings, urged the Southern Kaduna people to embrace peace in order to end the violence, noting that “violence can only end when people decide that violence does not work”.
The governor noted that, “Somalia has been at war for decades, but war is not yet over. People must understand that is why the Chief of Army Staff and his officers are ready to flush out the bandits. We must be ready to tolerate one another.
“Our job as a state government is to provide the necessary support to the security agencies to preserve peace and to prosecute all those involved in any crime. My appeal as always is that let us recognise our common humanity.”
Few days after the operation was launched, it started yielding results as large cache of arms and ammunition was recovered. The discovery was made when troops embarked on cordon and search of Gwoska, Dangoma, Angwan Far and Bakin Kogi communities in Jama’a local government area.
Weapons recovered, according to a statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Kukasheka Usman, include 73 dane guns, four locally made rifles, one locally made machine gun and one locally made pistol.
Others, according to the statement include 260 cartridges, 14 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, 63 rounds of 9mm ammunition, one locally made small machine gun magazine, a pair of worn out military boot and some quantities of assorted improvised ammunition and pyrotechnics hidden in dug out pits.
Usman said “while efforts are ongoing to track down the owners of the arms and ammunition, it is imperative to state that the good people of the area have been very supportive and cooperated fully with the military, which led to these unprecedented findings.”
Last week, the Kaduna State Security Council, after reviewing the security situation in the in Southern Kaduna, lifted the 12 hour curfew that was imposed in Jama’a and Kaura local governments. The State Security Council at its meeting presided by El-Rufai noted that two weeks after the launch of the military operation, the security situation has greatly improved.
Samuel Aruwan, spokesman to El-Rufai, in a statement after the meeting, said “The meeting received and reviewed reports from the security agencies, which pointed to improvements in the security situation (in southern Kaduna).
“Therefore, the Council upheld the security recommendation that the curfew be removed with immediate effect. The State Security Council expressed the hope that all communities in the area will embrace the opportunities offered by the improved security situation to make sustained moves for peace and harmony”.
But in spite of the seeming return of peace, it was learnt that in some communities, many people still could not go to their farms as the farming season approaches due to isolated cases of killings or attacks in the bushes, especially in Jama’a local government area.
According to the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Kafanchan, Rt. Rev. Markus Dogo, about two weeks ago, two people were killed on the way to the farm.
“Somebody in Pasakori village was going to cut his palm fruits but he was killed near Gidan Waya by herdsmen. Two people were also killed in the bush around Gidan Waya area about two weeks ago. Some women went to cut Palm fruits they were chased away by herdsmen and were asked never to come to the area again. So, there are some villages, where people are scared of going to the farm,” the clergy man told THISDAY in a telephone interview.
Dogo, who noted that peace was gradually being restored, said some of the bandits were still hiding in the bushes and urged the security agencies to flush them out. He said in some communities, people have returned to the farms while in some, people were scared of going to their farms because of the fear of being killed by the bandits, some of whom he said were still in their hideout in the bushes.
He therefore appealed to the military to comb the bushes thoroughly to flush them out so that people could commence farming activities. Also commenting on the security situation, the Southern Kaduna Zonal Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Venerable John Bwankwot, agreed that the security situation seemed to have improved.
“We have not witnessed any attack for some time now apart from some isolated cases of killings in one or two communities. Many communities have started going back to the farms, but others cannot because of fear of being attack by some herdsmen, who are still hiding in the bush” Bwankwot said in a telephone interview with THISDAY.
He also appealed to the security agents to sustain the tempo of their operations, stressing that there was need to dislodge those bandits that were still in their hideouts.
Interestingly, in the Atakad area of Manchok, Kaura local government, economic activities have fully resumed as people now go to their farms freely. In a telephone interview with THISDAY, the Vice-President, Atakad Community Development Association, Mr. Enock Andong said his community had no security challenges for now following the activities of security operatives.
Although he said the herdsmen were still on the hills, he added that the Atakad community has been making effort to meet with the herdsmen to discuss the way forward for peaceful and harmonious coexistence.
“We have no any problem even though the herdsmen are still on top of the hills. They are grazing on top of the hills and we felt we should meet with them. We were supposed to meet with them and discuss peaceful and harmonious coexistence. Our people are back now in their farms without molestation. We want to meet with the herdsmen and discuss how we can sustain peace,” Andong said.
This notwithstanding, schools in the area, especially government owned schools are yet to reopen since they were closed down following the crisis. El-Rufai has always expressed his determination to arrest and prosecute those behind the pogrom in Southern Kaduna.
According to him, one of the reasons the crisis has continued unabated is because those involved have neither been punished nor prosecuted in the last 35 years.”
He regretted that the impasse was prolonged by the non-prosecution of the sponsors of the crises over the years, stressing that no patriotic chief executive would allow his state to be on fire.
It is therefore expected that government and all stakeholders would join hands and do everything humanly possible to ensure lasting peace and the security of lives and property of all in the area.