After months of relative peace in the southern part of Kaduna State, merchants of deaths struck the area again, putting communities on edge. John Shiklam writes

The relative peace that was witnessed in the crises-ridden Southern part of Kaduna State for some months was shattered following recent attacks by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen.

At least 12 persons, including a traditional ruler and his pregnant wife were killed in three separate attacks in communities in Sanga and Jama’a Local Government Areas of the state.

Since 2011, Southern Kaduna had been embroiled in crises following the deadly activities of gunmen who invaded villages, maimed, killed and destroyed homes.

In December 2016, the federal government deployed soldiers and the police to the area following massive killings that led to clashes.

Since 2016, the state government, security agencies and some non-governmental organisations have been making concerted efforts to ensuring lasting peace in the area.

The peace efforts were paying off and communities were looking forward to a peaceful Christmas when angels of death suddenly struck on December 22, in Nidem Village, Kaninkon District in Jama’a Local Government Area of the state.

The gunmen had stormed the village square where the villagers were having a Christmas Carol about 9p.m. and opened fire at them killing four people and injuring several others.

On Christmas eve, six persons were killed in Anguwan Mailafiya Village in Gwong Chiefdom, also in Jama’a Local Government Area, when unknown gunmen invaded the community by 10p.m.

The communities were gripped by fear following these killings. The hope for peaceful Christmas was shattered as tension set in.

However, after the two incidents, more troops were deployed to Southern Kaduna to stem further attacks on communities in the area.

Samuel Aruwan, spokesman of the state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, in a statement issued after the attacks also disclosed that the state government provided a patrol van and motorbikes, including royal motorbikes to military personnel in the area to enhance security patrols.

“Concerted efforts to maintain peace in Southern Kaduna are continuing. The military authorities have deployed more troops to the area. Extra troops posted to the general area from 24th December 2017 have since arrived and are operating in the areas assigned to them.

“Furthermore, in order to enhance security patrols in the area,  Kaduna State Government has provided the military with a new patrol van” Aruwan had assured.

But despite the security measures, a traditional ruler and his pregnant wife were shot dead by unknown gunmen suspected to be herdsmen minutes after the New Year was ushered in.

The Etum Numana, Dr. Gambo Makama and his wife were said to have been killed in his village, Tsauni Ayuba, Arak District in Sanga Local Government Area of the state at about 12:05a.m. at his residence.

The second class chief and chairman of Sanga Traditional Council was said to have travelled from his palace in Gwantu, the headquarters of Sanga Local Government, to his village, to celebrate the New Year when he met his death.

His house and car were set ablaze by the assailants who fled to the bush and escaped. His 45-year-old son, however survived the attack, but he was seriously injured and was rushed to the hospital.

The killings attracted angry condemnations, particularly from the Numana Community Development Organisation (NCDO) and the Sanga Development Association.

The NCDO in a statement said the gruesome murder of the paramount ruler was one too many, considering that in recent times, the Sanga Local Government Area and the entire Southern Kaduna had been serially attacked by merchants of death.

The statement signed by the National President of NCDO, Mr. Sabo Mbachi Jonathan, recalled that a week before the barbaric murder of the paramount ruler, “two of our sons were waylaid and attacked on their way to their village- Janda, by suspected fulani herdsmen. They were beaten to stupor, their money, mobile phones and other valuables were also carted away.”

The group expressed worry that “it seems, these agents of darkness have set their deadly eyes on our people and are determined to annihilate us.”

The NCDO called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies, to as a matter of urgency, spread their tentacles and unravel the killers and bring them to justice.”

Jonathan further called on the Forward Operation Base (FOB) of 2 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Zango Kataf  and the Kaduna state Police Command to take proactive measures to protect the people from  deadly killers.

According to him, “the call had become extremely important so as to avoid the patience of our people from being overstretched.”

He however urged sons and daughters of Numana, especially in Gwantu, to remain calm and not take the law into their hands.

On its part, the Sanga Development Association (SDA) questioned the rationale behind the gruesome killing of the traditional ruler and his wife.

A statement by its Secretary General, Mr. Agony Jetty, urged security agencies to fish out the killers and bring them to justice.

“We cannot explain the rationale behind all these unprovoked attacks and killings. But the time had come when an end must be put to all these, if government and her security apparatus are serious,” the association said.

“For our paramount ruler who is also the Chairman, Sanga Traditional Council, Dr. Gambo Makama, Etum Numana and his wife to be assassinated by gunmen which we suspect to be Fulani marauders is unacceptable.

“We demand that Kaduna State Government, under Mallam Nasir el-Rufai should use all machinery at her disposal and the security agencies to uncover the perpetrators of this dastardly act and bring them to book,” the group alleged.

The SDA further said: “It is on record that after the systematic genocide that was targeted on various parts of our communities in Sanga LGA from June 2014 where the aged, women, children and all categories of people were massacred, the Fulani killers under the umbrella of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) then turned around and fingered some of our traditional rulers demanding for their dethronement and prosecution. This was simply unthinkable!

“Two key traditional rulers were targeted by MACBAN in two separate petitions dated 12th June, 2014 and 1st August, 2014 which were jointly signed by its Sanga Chairman – Alhaji Alhassan Abdulkarim and Protem Secretary, Musa Abdullahi Badembo, and the other jointly signed by Southern Kaduna Zonal Chairman, Alhaji Haruna Usman, Chairman Jama’a Local Government Area, Alhaji Abdulhamid Musa and Chairman Sanga LGA respectively.

The SDA alleged in the petitions that, “MACBAN had demanded for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the Chief of Numana and District Head of Fadan Karshi among other Numana leaders.

The association alleged that “among these two traditional rulers that were targeted by MACBAN, the district head of Fadan Karshi, Mallam Bala Madaki was assassinated in his house at Fadan Karshi on the night of May 1, 2016 and now Dr. Gambo Makama, the second name on their list was murdered the night of 31st December, 2017.

“This time, this assassination must not go like it happened during that of the late district head of Fadan Karshi where the perpetrators have remained at large.

“We demand that those responsible for this dastardly act be uncovered and made to face justice. We are seriously worried and perplexed that in spite of the unprovoked attacks, trauma and deep pains that our people, not only in Sanga Local Government Area, but in the whole of Southern Kaduna have been subjected to and happenings in recent time, it is at such a time that the Special Task Force (Operation Safe Haven) have deployed a Fulani military officer, Colonel Kabir Abdullahi to be the Sector Commander for Sanga LGA (Sector Delta).

“To the generality of the people of Sanga, we see this as unfair to us, as his coming has emboldened some Fulani herdsmen in the area to step up their nefarious activities. And it is in his time that our paramount ruler and his wife were assassinated.

“Considering all these developments, we request that Col. Kabir Abdullahi be redeployed from Sanga for the sake of peace, equity and fairness that we all yearn for following years of trauma occasioned by ceaseless bloodbath and gruesome killings.

“What the Special Task Force in this area need is a neutral and detribalised military officer that every ethnic group in Sanga Local Government could have confidence and trust in, one who shall sincerely and faithfully discharge his duties without favour, sentiments or any ethnic or religious consideration.”

However, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria has denied having a hand in the killings.

Reacting to the allegations levelled against it by the SDA, chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of MACBAN, Alhaji Haruna Usman said in a telephone interview with THISDAY that Miyetti Allah was not happy about the killing of the traditional ruler.

Usman, who is one of those being accused by the SDA for signing a petition against Numana traditional rulers, while admitting to the signing the petition in 2014, said the issues were resolved that year and the Fulanis have been coexisting peacefully with the Numana people since then.

“We as Miyetti Allah, we condemned what is happening in Numana, we have no hand in what happened.

“They are talking about what happened (the petition) in 2014 which was settled. This happened and all the grievances were settled and the Fulani people and Numana people are living in peace. These (killings) are condemnable, we are not happy about what happened to the chief,” Usman said.

Also, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Sanga/Jama’a federal constituency, Hon. Shehu Nicholas Garba while condemning the killings, lamented that the attacks defied all human logic.

In a statement, the lawmaker noted that the fact that the attacks took place during the Christmas season was an indication that the perpetrators had total contempt for the solemnity of the season.

“We had thought that the relative peace which had been witnessed over the past months, arising from efforts of well-meaning individuals and bodies, was going to translate into a permanent peace which our people desperately desire.

“Unfortunately, it appears that some persons or group are bent on perpetuating violence and turning our hitherto peaceful communities into a theatre of war for reasons not yet clear to all peace-loving people,” the lawmaker said.

He described the killings as barbaric and condemnable, saying however that the virtues of peace and harmonious coexistence amongst all the communities would continue to be pursued.

He appealed to the security agencies to quickly investigate the latest incidents with a view to apprehending and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

“I am also appealing to His Excellency, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, to ensure that these latest incidents do not go the way of similar previous incidents where the perpetrators were never apprehended. There is no doubt that the impunity which has followed previous incidents has continued to embolden the murderers whose agenda is yet to be unraveled.

 “We are calling on all Nigerians and the international community to take a special notice of the happenings and plight of our communities which are daily being decimated by forces that the state has persistently failed to unearth,” the lawmaker said.

On its part the Kaduna State Government said security agencies had been directed to investigate the killings.

In a statement, Samuel Aruwan said the state government was saddened by the killings.

The statement described the late traditional ruler as a peacemaker who was committed to peace and development in his chiefdom.

“The government condemns this double murder as a calculated threat to peace, and a most unfortunate attempt to intrude into a New Year a pattern of criminality that needlessly threatens the right of citizens to security, life and liberty.

“All those with useful information are enjoined to forward to the relevant security agencies and the information will be treated with utmost confidentiality.

“Government has directed the security agencies to investigate this criminal incident and bring the assailants to justice. We urge the people of Numana Chiefdom to remain calm and to support the security agencies as they investigate this latest threat to the hard-won peace in the area.

“The security agencies have also taken necessary measures to assign more personnel to the area to keep the peace,” the government said.

These latest incident has put a spanner in the works to groups and individuals that have been working towards lasting peace in Southern Kaduna.

Sources said many communities in Southern Kaduna live under fear of the unknown, despite the presence of security agents.

“Many communities have been living in fear. People cannot go to the farm, our farm produce were being destroyed and there was nothing we can do because, the herdsmen are well armed, they are hiding in the bushes,” a community leader in one of the villages told THISDAY.

It was also gathered that the difficult terrain in some parts of Southern Kaduna has also made it difficult for security patrol to quickly respond to distress calls as some of the villages have no motorable roads.

This is in addition to poor telephone network which makes it impossible to communicate in times of emergencies.

But the questions that many Nigerians have been asking are why are herdsmen moving about freely with sophisticated weapons without being apprehended? How did they get such weapons which they use for their nefarious activities?

There had been too much bloodshed and destruction in Southern Kaduna. Sadly no one has been arrested and prosecuted till date.

The authorities must do everything possible to stop further bloodshed in the area.