Southern Kaduna and the Merchants of Death
John Shiklam writes that the recent resurgence of bloodshed in Southern Kaduna follows a similar sustained pattern that security agents have not been able to halt for decades
Southern Kaduna has been in the eye of the storm over incessant attacks and massive destruction of lives and property in the past few weeks.
The killings have been widely condemned by groups and individuals, including human rights orginsations across the country.
Apparently the killings seem to follow a similar pattern with invasion that wrecked havoc on communities in Sanga, Kaura, Jama’a Local Government Areas and other surrounding areas in 2016.
The latest of the attacks plaguing the area took place on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, when 33 people were killed in five communities in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area.
The communities namely: Apyiashyim, Atak’mawei, Kibori, Kurmin-Masara, and Magamiya arel in Atyap chiefdom.
Despite the 24 hour curfew in the area by the Kaduna state government, the rampaging gunmen said to be Fulani herdsmen visited their victims with terror at about 11pm on Wednesday in the operation said to have lasted till about 4am on Thursday.
The state government had imposed a 24-hour curfew in Zangon Kataf, Kauru, Kaura and Jama’a council areas following incessant killings which has pitched the predominantly Christian ethnic nationalities in the southern part of the state against the Fulanis, with the former, accusing the later of being behind the devilish acts.
Residents of the the affected areas said they are not safe under the 24 hour curfew as the bandits move about freely to kill them without the security personnel coming to their aide.
A community leader in Atyap chiefdom who pleaded anonymity, said the curfew has not stopped the killings.
He said herdsmen who launched the recent attacks were armed with AK47 rifles, machetes, knifes, swords and sticks and rode on motorcycles.
He said they went from village-to-::village, killing, looting and burning houses and vehicles.
“These people are very cruel. They are beasts. They slaughter people like rams, there is no humanity in them,” he said.
The villagers also alleged that the security personnel deployed to stop the killings were not up and doing in containing the worrisome situation in the area.
According to Rev. Gideon Mutum, Coordinator of one of the IDP camps for displaced victims of the attacks in Southern Kaduna, the security personnel were not living up to expectation.
“The confidence that the government always gives us is that we have a joint task force outfit here in Kafanchan, but we all know that the manpower is not enough, the motivation is not enough and the necessary equipment for security is not there.
He said the attack that took place in Zipkak village, on the outskirts of Kafanchan, headquarters of Jama’a LGA, where nine people were killed on July 25, 2020 would have been aborted if security personnel had been alive to their duty.
”There was actually no effort by the military when the attack took place in the community which is just one and a half kilometres away, from Kafanchan town.
“They were taken by surprise because the criminals came and carried out the killings within a few minutes and left without being apprehended by the security personnel.
“Curfew will not solve the problem, rather it will escalate the killings, looking at what we have experienced,“ he said.
The villagers alleged that the curfew is targeted at them as the herdsmen who violate it to attack them have never arrested by security agents.
According to Luka Binniyat, spokesman of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), the curfew is strictly enforced on the natives, disclosing that four youths were arrested about one month ago and taken to Kaduna for violating the curfew, but all efforts to secure bail for them have been fruitless.
He said besides the fact that people were killed by the herdsmen, hunger is killing them too as they have no food and cannot go to the farm.
“As they are killing us with guns, hunger is also killings us because we cannot go to our farms. If we want to go to our farms, the security personnel will arrest us for violating the curfew, but they fail to stop our attackers who visit us with terror.
“Our people are helpless, when security personnel see them with ordinary dane gun that they use for hunting, they arrest them, but we have not seen them arrest those who use deadly weapons against of us” Binniyat said.
He said that farms were being destroyed, as the herdsmen graze their farms on the crops or use cutlass to destroy the crops.
“It should be very obvious to anybody who was in doubt before, that this is genocide.
Rarely a week passes without communities being raided. Thousands of people have been rendered homeless following the destruction of their houses and property.
Before now, the killing field was Kajuru and Chikun Local government areas of the state. Kajuru in particular has suffered series of attacks through out the COVID-19 lockdown.
Hundreds of displaced people in Kajuru and Chikun are still in IDP camps.
The Southern Kaduna violence erupted following the murder of one Yusuf Moses Magaji, a 32 year-old man and a Chawai native by unknown persons on June 5, 2020.
The farmland located in Zangon Kataf was said to be under dispute, resulting in a clash between youths from two communities in the area.
The state government had initially imposed the curfew in Chawai and Atyap chiefdoms in Zangon Kataf and Kauru LGA respectively to avert crisis.
However, as violence escalated, the entire area of the two councils were placed under a 24-hour curfew.
On Friday, July 10, gunmen descended in a deadly attack on Chibob, Atyap Chiefdom, Zangon Kataf LGA and killed nine people while 20 houses were burnt.
Again on Saturday July 11, 2020, another community, Kigudu also came under attack, leading to the death of 12 people.
On July 12, 2020, Anguwan Audu community was invaded, one person was said to have been killed while property were looted and houses burnt.
Also on July 19, at about 10pm bandits invaded Kukum -Daji village, Kaura LGA and killed 18 people, mostly young people earlier who were celebrating the wedding of one of their colleagues which was conducted earlier in the day.
Sixteen others were said to have been seriously injured.
The state government promptly extended the 24 hour curfew to Kaura and Jama’a LGAs.
SOKAPU, in a statement accused Fulani herdsmen of the mindless and brutal attacks, saying it was genocide and a plot to take over their ancestral land.
But reacting in a statement on July 3, a Fulani group – the Coalition of Fulani Pastoralists Organisations in Kaduna also accused the Atyap youth of unleashing mayhem on Fulani communities, alleging that 99 pastoralists were murdered by Atyap youths.
The statement, jointly signed by Alhaji Haruna Tugga, Ardo Idris Gundaru, Nuhu Ibrahim, Abbas J. Julde and Abubakar Ibrahim Naseh, maintained that “on the 11th, 12th and 13th June, 2020, Atyap youths willfully, without any form of provocation, attacked Fulani peoples houses in 11 villages of Atyap Chiefdom in Zangon Kataf and two villages in Tsam Chiefdom of Kauru LGA.”
The group alleged, “the youths, supported by elders and women in some instances, moved from house-to-house, killing, looting and burning.”
The statement added that, “the Atyap youths also blocked the road from Samaru to Saminaka and killed any Muslim passer-by they could identify.”
The Fulani group alleged that the Atyap youth “blocked, killed and confiscated livestock from many migrating Fulani pastoralists within the affected areas.”
The group said it had documented a total of 3,099 internally displaced persons, including the aged, women and children and the villages/towns they are living.
The coalition said, the displaced persons were in 17 IDP camps located in Kaduna, Bauchi, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
It said some of the IDP camps located in Kaduna state include Zango Urban, Angwan Zomo, Bakin Kogi, Mariri, Saminaka Geshere, Gidan Dutse, Tilde Crossing and Lere town among others.
But SOKAPU, in a reaction dismissed the allegations, saying it has never instigated any crisis nor attack on anybody or group.
SOKAPU President and Hon. Jonathan Asake, a former federal lawmaker, said in an interview with THISDAY that the ulanis herdsmen were the ones killing people in southern Kaduna.
He said SOKAPU has only been crying to tell the world about the genocide against the Southern Kaduna people.
Asake further alleged that the killings were being perpetrated by some indigenous Fulani herdsmen with their foreign collaborators.
He said the killings were aimed at dislodging the natives and to take over their lands, adding that many of the sacked communities were being occupied by the herdsmen.
Asake said, “SOKAPU has never instigated any crisis, we have never armed anybody, all that we have been doing is to cry to the world whenever our communities are attacked.
“I challenge anybody to check if we have gone beyond that. What we do is to issue press statements about the attacks and killings of our people, ” he said.
“We normally give the name, age and the number of our people that are killed. If anybody is accusing us, let him produce evidence. When we say people are killed, we show the pictures and videos of the dead people, we show them when they are being arranged in mass graves which are all over our communities.
“If anybody thinks we are lying, the corpse can be exhumed from the graves across the communities to verify,” said.
He challenged the coalition to produce evidence of their claims.
“Let them show us one place where they have IDPs.
Let them show us their own mass graves. We talk with facts and figures.
Besides, he said victims of the attacks in Kajuru and Zangon Kataf, have been identified and even named Fulanis who attacked them.
“The local people in a Kajuru and Zangon Kataf, mentioned particular names of Fulani people that they know, they have been staying with them and they came around in company of foreign Fulanis to attack them.
“The foreign Fulanis are usually invited by some local Fulanis to come and kill,” he said.
He stated further that “Governor El-Rufai and the President Buhari told us in 2016, when the killings were going on in Southern Kaduna other parts of the country, that the killers came from outside country.”
“The president said they came from Libya and other neighbouring countries. El-Rufai said they came from Guinea, Mali and other neighbouring countries and that he even traced them to pay them to stop the killings. But they have not stopped the killings.
“What he said was captured in a video clip of an interview he granted a television station, which went viral,” Asake said.
He said thousands of people have been displaced following the destruction of their homes and were at various Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) camps in Chikun, Kajuru and Zonkwa, among others.
The Presidency and Governor El-Rufai, attributed the killings to reprisals.
Garba Shehu, Presidential spokesman, had said, “From available security records, 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”.
El-Rufai who spoke in the same manner, said, “insecurity in Kaduna state is being perpetrated by criminal elements who have been killing, kidnapping people and rustling cattle the entire North West.”
According to him, “the criminality of the bandits gets coated with ethnic and religious hues when it affects communities in the southern parts of the state, where it tends to exacerbate communal tensions and pitch people who have lived peacefully together against each other.”
The governor said his administration has “taken major steps to secure the area, including ensuring that a military base was opened in Southern Kaduna along with two mobile police squadrons, answering decades-long demand for enhanced security presence in the area.”
He disclosed during a security meeting with traditional rulers in the state, that his administration has spent about N16 billion on security in the past five years
He, however, said, “in addition to security presence, peace requires that everyone should obey the rule of law and avoid self-help, because ultimately peace depends on the willingness of people to live in harmony and to settle their difference peacefully.”
He maintained that “attacks by bandits are not localised to a single part of the state,” noting that “these criminals attack people irrespective of their religion or ethnicity and they have been perpetrating their reign of terror in Giwa, Birnin Gwari and parts of Igabi local government.’’
According to him, the bandits operate mostly in Katsina, Zamfara and Niger states and their attacks in those states are seen and reported as criminal activity, “but these same attacks are perceived differently when they occur in Southern Kaduna and are invested with ethno-religious colorations.”
He said further that, “when bandits attack in Southern Kaduna, security reports show that youths from the affected communities have often responded by mobilising to attack Fulani communities in their area whose members share the same ethnicity with the presumed bandits, even though many Fulani communities are also themselves victims of the bandits, in Kaduna State and elsewhere.”
He noted that the problem is worsened by the response of Fulani communities who often resort to self-help when they are attacked, neglecting to report to traditional authorities or security agents to resolve the matter, opting instead for revenge.
“This is how the cycle of attacks, revenge and reprisals occurs in Southern Kaduna,” the governor said.
The governor who expressed sadness at the killings and the loss of lives and stressed the need for community leaders to emphasise adherence to the rule of law, to avoid the persistence of attacks and reprisals.
The governor said the decision by the state government to impose 24 hour curfew on Zangon Kataf and Kauru LGAs on June 11, 2020, was taken following the discovery of the corpse of a man from Kauru LGA who was resident in Zangon Kataf and the subsequent barricading of the highway and the burning of a vehicle with its occupants by some youths.
He said further that, “Although the June 5, 2020 dispute over a farmland was between Atyap and the Hausa community in Zango, several Fulani settlements were attacked in the events of June 11, 2020, with people killed and houses burnt.”
El-Rufai explained that the decision of his administration to set up a White Paper Drafting Committee on the reports of the Justice Rahila Cudjoe Commission of Inquiry into the 1992 Zangon-Kataf crisis and the 1995 report of the AVM Usman Muazu Committee is aimed at finding a permanent solution to the violent conflicts in Zangon Kataf.
He said dispute over a farmland was identified as a trigger of the May 1992 crisis, and that such a dispute also flared up on June 5, 2020.
But the assertion by the governor and the presidency that the killings were caused by reprisal attacks, has attracted mixed reactions among individuals and groups.
Luka Binniyat, spokesman of SOKAPU, maintained that denying the fact that the killings are acts of genocide, is tantamount to twisting the facts.
“If the Presidency and the governor said criminal gangs are hiding under politics and religion, then, let them arrest the criminal gangs and prosecute them.
“But you find out that the criminals are walking about freely. As far as we are concerned, the Southern Kaduna people are victims of genocide” Binniyat declared.
But the Ibrahim Bayero-Zango, Director of Media and Publicity of Kaduna state chapter MACBAN, said the Presidency was on point for saying that the Southern Kaduna killings were all part of revenge.
He said renewed killings were all about revenge following the killings by the Kataf people of the Fulani (non-indigenous Fulani) that passed through the southern route for grazing.
Bayero said those of them that were indigenous Fulani from the Southern part of the state had no problem because “even if we fight, we can always reconcile.”
“The Presidency has said it the way it is because the Kataf people alleged that one of their own was killed, that is why they ventured into killing Fulani.
“Unfortunately for them, we the indigenous Fulani from Southern Kaduna didn’t react,” he said.
At a briefing after a security meeting at the Government House, Kaduna, on July 28, 2020 the Commander of military operations, code named “Operation Safe Haven”, Maj. Gen. Chukwuemeka Okonkwo said shortage of manpower and the difficult terrain in Southern Kaduna were some of the challenges militating against tackling the security challenges.
”If you know the area very well, the communities are far and dispersed, they are several kilometres apart from each other.
“The terrain is difficult to access with vehicles and we have limitation of manpower but of course you know that we are committed” Okonkwo said.
He also attributed the killings to the activities of criminal elements on both sides of the divide.
“You have Kataf youths, Fulani militias and the criminal elements of both sides. Some people are also leveraging on the security situation to perpetuate their criminal activities, aside communities involved in the crisis,’’ Okonkwo said.
In the past five decades, Southern Kaduna has become the theatre of bloody, ethno-religious conflicts especially in 1987, Kafanchan religious clashes, the 1992 clashes between the Hausa fulani community and the indigenous Atyap (Kataf) in Zangon Kataf over the relocation of the local market, the sharia riots in 2000, the post presidential election violence in 2011, the herdsmen invasion in 2016 among others.
Violent conflict in Southern Kaduna has had a long history that may never be resolved by the selfish ruling elites due to vested political interest and the determination to maintain the statuesque.
The struggle of the Southern Kaduna people, according to Asake, is tied to the struggle against domination. It is the struggle for justice, equity, political power, cultural expression and access to economic opportunities.
The northern part of the state, mainly populated by Hausa-Fulani Muslims has continued to dominate the political scene since the military era.
The first time a Christian from the southern part became governor of of the state was in 2010, when late Patrick Yakowa, who was deputy to Namadi Sambo as governor succeeded him.
Yakowa became governor following the elevation of Sambo as Vice President to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Yakowa was elected for one term of office in 2011, but died in a helicopter crash in Bayelsa state, in December 2012.
Given the resentment and mutual suspicion between both sides of the divide it will take the grace of God for a Southern Kaduna to be governor of the state.
According to the President of SOKAPU, in the past 16-year administration, there was a power sharing arrangement
which gave the Southern Kaduna people a sense of inclusiveness and a sense of belonging.
“The arrangement was all inclusive, it respected our diversity and gave everybody a sense of belonging,” he said.
He said under the arrangement, if the governor is a Muslim from the northern part of the state, the deputy is a Christian from the southern part of the state.
“If the governor is from the north, the minister is automatically is from the south. All appointments were given to reflect our diversity provided for in the constitution.
“But the present administration of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai discarded that arrangement completely in his second term of office and replaced it with his lopsided, sectional and non inclusive system.
“As you may have noticed, the governor, his deputy, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Head of Service and the Chief of Staff all belong to same religious faith.
”El- Rufai is the most divisive governor we have ever had in Kaduna state. For us in Southern Kaduna, he does not know how to manage diversity, to us, he has no sense of justice and fairness, his actions and utterances in issues that concerns Southern Kaduna portrays him as a sectional and biased leader, ” Asake said.
He added that the solution to the persistent conflicts that have bedeviled the state, is for those in leadership positions to be fair and just to all sections no matter their tribe, religious or political ideology.