Government must find an enduring solution to the carnage in Southern Kaduna

For no rational justification, unbridled violence and blood-letting have in recent years defined the character of Southern Kaduna. That mindless waste of precious human lives and property has become the signature tune of an environment that was once a melting pot of well over 56 nationalities is troubling. Scores of people have been killed in attacks and reprisal attacks in no fewer than five local government areas of Southern Kaduna in the last two months. Dozens of others have been displaced in the violence that threatens the peace of the country because of its ethno-religious dimension.

In the face of this grim reality, the state government has had to impose dusk-to-dawn curfew in certain areas, yet that has not deterred the attacks. The violence has continued unabated because this is an old problem. For decades, relations between the Hausa/Fulani and the indigenous communities in Southern Kaduna have been tense, stemming largely from competition over resources, including land, and political control. These tensions have often degenerated to deadly ethnic and sectarian violence. What compounds the problem is that those who ordinarily should help in finding peace on both sides are almost always fuelling the fire.

The recent call for the execution of a former military governor of Rivers State, Major General Zamani Lekwot (rtd) by the Supreme Council of Shariah in Nigeria is not only reckless, it is one of the reasons peace has so far eluded the area. Sentenced to death by the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, following the 1992 Zango-Kataf riot, Lekwot was later pardoned by the administration of the late General Sani Abacha. On the White Paper committee set up by Governor Nasir el-Rufai to revisit the issue, Lekwot has raised a poser: “Is this White Paper they are trying to produce going to be the White Paper on top of White paper?” While we commend Governor el-Rufai for being proactive in dealing with the problem and for reaching out to all critical stakeholders, it is important for him to temper his rhetoric.

The bloodbath in Southern Kaduna exemplifies the absurdity in the indigene-settler divide in northern Nigeria. While many of the local indigenes have blamed the attacks on Fulani militia targeting Southern Kaduna Christian communities on ethnic grounds, the Hausa-Fulani communities have also accused their neighbours of deliberately waylaying them “on international routes.” And the violence, which has the imprimatur of savagery, shows no promise of abating as the combatants on both sides cannot find common ground for peace.

We align with the call on the federal government to urgently deploy security forces into the hinterlands, including consistent aerial surveillance to track down the purveyors of the carnage and end the wanton waste of lives and property. Government at the federal and state levels should also muster the courage and political will to halt the incursion of non-state actors. We advocate a return to the pre-2015 status of monarchs, with their approved nomenclatures as provided for by law. No price is too much to pay for peace to return to all parts Southern Kaduna in particular and Kaduna State in general. We hasten to say that there can be no plausible reason for not resolving the killings in Southern Kaduna, and restoring lasting peace in the area and the entire state.

For any enduring solution, there must be an end to mutual recriminations. While government must apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of the heinous crimes in Southern Kaduna and elsewhere, we cannot encourage retribution and violence as a way of redressing perceived grievances. Using unlawful means to settle scores cannot remove the fundamental basis of the strife that has plagued Southern Kaduna for decades.