After the 2011 post- election violence that rocked some states in the northern part of the country, with Kaduna State, as the major casualty, as it lost over 800 persons, out of the about 1,000 that died in the entire country, villages and towns in the Southern Kaduna part of the state have continued to witness incessant attacks by faceless groups, from then, till date.
Curiously, the dimension of the attacks is making it difficult for both the people of the area and the security operatives, in and around the state, to define the attacks or identify its causes.
When, therefore, a 24 -hour curfew was imposed in four of the councils in the southern part of the state, shortly before Christmas, residents had heaved a sigh relief. But little did they know that respite for them, was far from being in sight, as one of the communities in the area, Goska village, to be precise, suffered another attack on the eve of Christmas.
The attack, Saturday Sun gathered, left five persons dead and several others wounded, with a 14 -year- old daughter of former chairman of Jema’a Local Government area, Gideon Morik, being among those killed. Goska, is about 5km from Kafachan, headquarters of Jema’a LGA.
Saturday Sun further learnt that the incident has forced many residents to flee the community, and other neighbouring communities, for fear of being attacked. They reasoned that if the Christmas eve attack could take place when security operatives had been deployed to the area, and under curfew, there was no guarantee that their lives would be protected.
Meanwhile, Saturday Sun can authoritatively reveal that the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Ibrahim Idris, will be relocating to Kaduna today, to personally supervise security operations in the area, with a view to boosting the confidence of the residents of the area, who are already apprehensive, waiting for the next attack.
Victims Recount Ordeal
Describing the Goska village attack, an eyewitness, who simply identified himself as Jato, told Saturday Sun that the attackers “came in large number at about 5pm, and surrounded our village, started shooting and burning houses indiscriminately, I managed to escape through an uncompleted building, running towards Kafanchan, and shouting for help, but no response from anybody because there was curfew, and the soldiers on patrol refused to come to our help. So they killed our people like chicken for Christmas. It was on Christmas eve”.
Some of the residents, who spoke to Saturday Sun, expressed the fear over the certainty of security operatives being able to stop the killings. They reasoned that the killings may erupt any time, despite the fact that curfew was in place.
Ibrahim Sambo Zonkwa said: “I am telling you there are some gunmen who swore to kill many villagers in Zagon Kataf and Lere Local Government area, but unfortunately , the security are only stationed in towns not in villages, so anything can happened’’.
Mrs. Mariam Sunday, a business woman in Kafachan said: “I am not worried about curfew, but the level of commitment to end the crises has not been addressed, the governor said he knows the killers and their supporters, let him expose them and get them arrested, we are still in problem, I cannot move out for my business because the killers are in their hideout.’’
Community leader, others speak
Also, some of the community leaders who spoke to Saturday Sun expressed their fear over continued attack by the gunmen, once the security relaxed.
Malam Dantata Adamu, is the Village Head of Bakin Kogi in Kagoma chiefdom, in Southern Kaduna. He said: “With the continued killing of innocent people, it is still dangerous to allow the situation to continue, there is need for more security presence not in Kafanchan, but in the entire Southern Kaduna’’.
He said killings by the Fulani herdsmen or other tribe would jeopardize the peaceful co-existence of the people. As such, he said there was need for government to bring the two parties together for dialogue’’.
Lending his voice to the need to deploy more security operatives to the southern part of the state, former Kaduna Deputy Governor, James Bawa Magaji, who incidentally is from the area, argued that the current security operatives deployed to the state as a whole, and to the south, in particular, may have been overwhelmed. He, therefore, called on the Federal Government, to consider deploying more security operatives to the state, particularly the south, adding that “once that is done, we might be able to come out of it.”
Magaji, went a step further by advocating the establishment of a state police, insisting that with state police, it will be easy to police every hamlet. “I will implore communities to take example from Borno, where the civilian JTF, played a prominent role, in helping to crush Boko Haram. So, communities should train their youth, even if it means getting experts to train them, and let them complement the efforts of our conventional security operatives to combat the menace. I would not want to say Southern Kaduna has been abandoned in the wake of the killings, because at the turn of every attack, Mallam El-Rufai personally goes to the area. But you know, when you are making efforts, and people are still suffering, it will look as if you are not doing enough. This is how I see it,” the former deputy governor, said.
But Mark Jacob, who is one of the leading voices in the southern part of Kaduna State, and a former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, believes that the world has abandoned the area in the wake of the killings. He described the killings as “a serious issue that ought to receive national and international attention.”
He said, instead, it was being downplayed, with government insisting “on diverting attention, for political discussion. The Kaduna State Government has deliberately refused to attend to the killings and have been busy talking about other things, as if our people do not matter.”
Religious Bodies React
While the Christian clerics put the blame of the killings squarely on the state government, the National Council of Imams and Ulamas rose from an emergency meeting held in Kaduna, and asked Governor El-Rufai to fish out and prosecute persons involved in the killings, declaring that “the crisis will never stop until those behind it are brought to book.”
The Islamic clerics opined that, ensuring prosecution of those involved in the wanton killings would serve as deterrence to other criminally- minded people.
Speaking to journalists shortly after the meeting, the National Chairman of the Council, Sheikh Abubakar Tureta, also urged both the federal and state governments to find a lasting solution to the crisis in the area.
The Christian clerics on their part said so far 808 people have been killed and 1,422 houses, 16 churches, 19 shops, and one primary school destroyed, since the crises erupted.
Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kafanchan, Ibrahim Yakubu, who addressed reporters along with four other priests, blamed the state government for the killings, saying government failed to protect the locals.
“Unfortunately, our governments both at the centre and state levels have failed woefully. We call on Southern Kaduna indigenes to remain steadfast in prayer, united, strong and never to cave in to the antics of our adversaries.
“The herdsmen and their ilk turned the towns into killing fields and killed mostly women, children and the elderly who couldn’t run for cover.
“The level of barbarity was such that pregnant women got their wombs blown out and massacred before their children. And these innocent children were not spared either.
“This level of viciousness was never witnessed even in the brutal tyranny and regime of Adolf Hitler. What is most intriguing is the level of sophistication of weapons; Ak 47, machine guns and many other deadly instruments of death were freely used.
“The viciousness of these self -styled Jihadists sends shivers into the spines of our traumatized people. In the Godogodo and Pasakori attacks for example, the military merely watched and supervised the burning of our homes. When the youth mobilised to repel the attackers, the soldiers deliberately blocked them from entering the town.”
Govt. values cows more than us – Sokapu leader
Solomon Musa is the President, Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU). He spoke to Saturday Sun on the plight of embattled Southern Kaduna people, over incessant bloody attacks. Excerpts:
How will you describe the response of the state government to the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna?
I want to say with all sense of responsibility that government has been insensitive. It has not played the key role the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria placed on it in that area of security of lives and property of people of Southern Kaduna.
The governor was disturbed about the cattle rustling in Kamuku forest. He collaborated with other states and addressed it. Now, the people of Southern Kaduna have much more value than cattle. Where cattle were involved, you treated it with special force. But, where human lives are being lost, no special operation has been enforced to address it.
From the body language of Kaduna government, it is clear that it is selective in its approach. It appears there is injustice and selectiveness.
What is SOKAPU doing to ensure protection of lives and property of people of Southern Kaduna?
If the government has failed to protect the people, then the people have responsibility and obligation to protect themselves. However, while doing that, they must not attack anybody. We are using legal means, both internal and international, as provided by the constitution. There should never be attack on anybody, except in self defence. We have said this and we are saying it again that, no Southern Kaduna person should go on reprisal. We should complement the government.
Is it true that Fulani herdsmen have taken over some of the villages they had sacked the locals from?
They are not only displacing people in many villages, but they have started occupying them, call it occupation or conquest. What they are doing is to supplant the people. Cows are grazing on crops and this is a reality.
What do you think can be done to address the issue?
First, government should establish a battalion in Southern Kaduna especially, at Sangan and Sankan forests. There should be aerial survey and surveillance. There should be intelligence gathering. They should face the attackers rather than people who are trying to defend themselves from terrorists.
In addition to all that, special operation should be set up just the way it was done in Kamuku forest. People should be properly resettled. There is also the need to seriously engage all the people of Southern Kaduna in the process of rebuilding the destroyed communities. All the terrorists the governor mentioned, that are in 14 countries, should be traced, through Federal Government, arrested and prosecuted by the International Court of Justice.
We’re doing our best to arrest situation – El-Rufai
Mr. Sam Aruwan, is Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s spokesman. He told Saturday Sun about efforts being put in place by the Kaduna State Government, to arrest the killings in Southern Kaduna area of the state. Excerpts:
Consistently, the government has been accused of not doing enough to stop the killings in Southern Kaduna, what is your reaction to that?
That is the burden of leadership in a complex setting like ours; it is the cross leadership carries in such situation. The state is very complex with an estimated population of almost 10 million people, a state with religious and ethnic sensitivities. A state with 32 chiefdoms and emirates; with over 54 ethnic groups, in 255 electoral wards and other diversities, there will certainly be such accusation. But, it is not new in the history of conflicts in Kaduna State. Former Governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi faced the same thing following the first crisis of February 2000 and the subsequent ones that followed. Late Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa faced the same hurdle following the 2011 post election violence and the one that occurred in 2012 after a bomb attack. So this is the situation, but, the fact remains that government is working day and night to ensure there is peace and also to ensure that threats to peace are nipped in the bud. We are deeply committed in peace building and it is clear without any ambiguity.
What in specific terms have you done, to demonstrate this level of commitment?
When we came in, the government dusts up the Kaduna State Peace and Reconciliation Committee report that was abandoned for years, and we started working on their recommendations. Government set up a special committee to study the unfortunate Southern Kaduna situation and we were making a head-way until the recent attacks. But, it is an issue government and security agencies took serious beyond rhetoric and we are working day and night to ensure we pull through. By the special grace of God, we will overcome it.
With what is being done, how do you explain the latest killings, when curfew was in force?
It is a sad situation and the government condemned it in strong terms. The government empathized with the families that lost their beloved ones and security is working behind the scene to get these forces of darkness. The idea of imposing curfew was based on credible intelligence tabled before the Kaduna State Security Council by military, police, DSS and other security agencies. And with hindsight, I can confirm, that the action was taken in good faith and to avert a bloodbath and a major breakdown of law and order that could have engulfed the entire state.
Finally, what assurance is the government giving the Southern Kaduna people, to show it is serious about ending the killings, against the background of the Birnin Gwari experience?
As we speak, there is an ongoing discussion to cite two military formations in Southern Kaduna. More troops of Nigerian Army have been deployed to the area. The police have deployed a special task force to the area and the leadership of the Mobile Police Force has been relocated to Southern Kaduna to oversee the operations of men and officers who were largely drawn from the force and other specialized component units under the leadership of the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operations. The government will continue with its peace building process, engagement and consultations for peace and harmony.
Government and security agencies will not be deterred, it will continue to be resilient, up and doing and courageous in tackling this unfortunate situation. The tactics of the attackers are to create a chasm, divide people, breed hate and prejudice and plunge the state into chaos, but, we will triumph over these evil forces by the grace of Almighty God. No amount of evil will change our deep commitment. We will continue to be firm, decisive and put lives of our citizenry and their well being as our ultimate goal.