Killings by suspected herdsmen in Southern axis of Kaduna State have turned the inhabitants into frightful creatures awaiting death anytime. These incessant murders and destruction of property, now spreading across many Local Government Councils in Southern Kaduna, have brought back dark days of terror to an area that once enjoyed relative peace in the early days of Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai’s administration. SYLVESTER AHIJO reports on an area that is slowly becoming a zone of death

Before May 29, 2015

The culture of bloodbath has become synonymous with life in Southern Kaduna. The 2011 post-election crisis opened the floodgate of unprecedented destruction of lives and property. By the time the dust settled, scores of lives were lost, with the then elected governor, late Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, pledging to stave off further attacks on the area. In a bid to walk his talk, Yakowa had in May 2011 set up an 11-man panel of Inquiry on the 2011 post-election crisis that took place in April 2011. Announcing Justice Mohammed Lawal Bello as Chairman of the panel, the governor had ordered that the panel submitted its report within a period of eight weeks. Other members of commission included the chairman of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Rev. Sam Kujiyat, Jama’atul Nasir Islam (JNI) Chairman, Alhaji Ja’afaru Makarfi, Rabiu Bako, Ali Barnabas Hadwya, Rev. Bauta Motty Abubakar, Stephen Bawa Manya, Mrs. Hadiza Mailafiya and John Waje Baju, who served as secretary of the Commission. The fallout of the report by the Bello’s panel gave birth to the Kaduna State Peace and Reconciliation Committee that was set up in January 2012 by Yakowa, who appointed AVM Ishaya Shekari (rtd) and Alhaji Abbas Dabo Sambo as co-chairmen of the 70-member committee to forge out ways of staving off future crises. The committee was later fraught with disagreement, as some of the members refused to append their signatures on its final report. After the death of Yakowa in December 2013, the man who succeeded him, Alhaji Ramalan Mukhtar Yero, jettisoned the report of the committee and incessant attacks on Southern Kaduna communities by men alleged to be herdsmen took a frightening dimension, as several hundreds of lives were destroyed, with government displaying a lackadaisical attitude in tackling the problem. Before the assumption to power by the APC-led government of Kaduna State, headed by Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, on May 29, 2015, attacks on the Southern Kaduna people had been the trend, with both the Kaduna State and Federal Government not doing much to ensure safety of lives and property. When the Kaura Attacks took place in 2014, with nearly 100 persons hacked to death in their sleep, the Kaduna State Government was alleged to have engineered the sacking of Reuben Buhari as media aide to the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Laurentia Malam, over pictures of the Kaura killings he allegedly posted on social media. By the time the 16 years of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), came to an end on May 29, 2015, Southern Kaduna communities have suffered no less than 42 attacks under the watch of the PDP-led Federal Government.

Promise of New Dawn

Unlike in the past, the Southern Kaduna people went to the 2015 polls clearly divided on the issue of delivering block votes to any particular party. While the PDP top guns pleaded with the people not to abandon the party, the desire for change eventually proved an albatross for the then ruling party. For the first time since 1999, the area was clearly divided, as the All Progressives Congress (APC), forced the PDP to kiss the dust in the governorship poll. Seen as a purveyor of a new dawn, and considering the footprints he left as Minister of the Federal capital Territory (FCT), Governor El-Rufai wasted no time to declare that he was committed to bringing to book suspected past killers that have turned Southern Kaduna into a horrible cynosure of human cruelty. He assured Christian elders, who visited him early in June 2016, that he was poised to leave no stone unturned to resolve the security challenge plaguing the state. Lamenting on the violence that has ripped the state for as many 12 times, El-Rufai identified ethnic and religious factors as responsible for past violence that have turned the area into bloodbath. The former Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprise, vowed to implement all measures recommended by previous administrations to tackle the challenges of insecurity. Specifically, he declared to the Christian elders that he would implement all recommendations of the committee set up by the Late Yakowa to bring peace to the state. Identifying the creation of a Peace and Reconciliation Commission as bedrock in realising harmony in the state, El-Rufai restated his determination to establish such a commission, stressing that, no investor can come to an area that is fraught with violence and insecurity. In order to provide a roadmap in resolving the bloodshed in the state, El-Rufai appointed a committee headed by Gen Martins Agwai (rtd), who when submitting the report of the panel to the governor, noted that the people of the state, irrespective of tribes and religion, love to live in peace with one another. He identified land conflict, religion, tribal differences, indigene bigotry and unemployment as major factors responsible for crisis in the state. Agwai noted, “The people are willing to cooperate with government on its plan to return peace in the state. We also observed that the government needs the media to inform the public about its activities because lack of effective media presence in the area has connection with the crisis. So, there is the urgent need for the establishment of television, radio and mobile lines in the area.” Calling on the governor to set up a Peace and Reconciliation Commission to promote peace and tackle the problems of insecurity, he heaped blames on politicians who have seized the space, using unpatriotic individuals and unemployed youths to unleash terror on the state.

Return To Bloodbath

From Bondong to Takad, Kabamu, Ankpong, Kobin, Ambeh, Fadan Karshi, Karshin Daji and Dogon Daji, all in Sanga Local Government Area, down to Ninte, Ungwan Anjo, Golkofa, Gada Biyu, Dogon Fili, Antang, Godogodo in Jema’a LGA, the bloodbath continues to flow, with the killers showing no sign of sheathing their swords. Chawai Chiefdom was recently in the news; with no fewer than 30 hacked to death by suspected herdsmen. Gidan Waya, Pasakori and Mile 1, all in Jema’a Local Government Council, was recently turned into a zone of warfare, with fleeing students and staff of the College of Education turning the school into a deserted ghost town. Only a detachment of mobile policemen were left behind to secure whatever was left after the attack. What used to be the palace of Gidan Waya District Head is now a relic of what warfare can do to a community. Alarmed by the spate of attacks on communities, Concerned Professionals from Southern Kaduna recently staged a peaceful protest in Sanga and called on the state government to move fast and stave off further attacks on the area. Led by Barrister Mark Jacob, the professionals called for the setting up of a special security task force to deliver the area from incessant attacks from herdsmen. The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), an umbrella organisation of Southern Kaduna communities, described the numerous attacks on the area as a deliberate ploy that is aimed at disempowering the people. Predicting hunger for most communities in the southern part of the state as a result of attacks by herdsmen on farming communities, the National President of SOKAPU, Barrister Solomon K. Musa, noted that these attacks have diminished peace prospects. “It will appear that Southern Kaduna does not deserve the attention, sympathy or intervention of government. It will appear that we have been abandoned, deserted and neglected. We do not deserve the intervention or sympathy of the Federal or State Governments. Security personnel are posted to the main highways only; from April to date, there does not appear to be any form of intelligence gathering, any form of surveillance, any form of proactive measures to forestall future occurrences; any form of intervention by government. From April to date, neither NEMA nor SEMA has seen or deem it fit to rehabilitate, resettle or to bring any kind of relief materials to the victims of the attacks in the area. No relief materials, no IDPs camps; no protection for our villages,” Musa lamented in a press statement.

Grey Areas For Peace

There are factors that have been alleged to be responsible for the resuscitated attacks on the area. First among these factors is the issue of grazing reserve that portrays an impression that the current administration in the state is engaged in seizing lands for the exclusive use of herdsmen in Southern Kaduna. Apart from the Ladduga Grazing Reserve in Kachia LGA, attempts to establish such reserve in Sanga and other parts of the area are seen as a ploy to deny the people of their ancestral lands. The alleged seizure of lands by herdsmen after each attack lend credence to allegations that the incessant siege on Southern Kaduna communities is purely done for territorial expansion to enable herdsmen graze their cattle without let or hindrance. A member of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in the state has been quoted to have said that attacks on southern Kaduna were reprisal in nature, as the herders were only avenging the death of their fellow herdsmen murdered in Southern Kaduna communities. “Despite this statement capable of disturbing the peace, the state government has not deemed it fit to call the member of MACBAN to order. It clearly shows that the herdsmen enjoy privileges others do not enjoy,” said a member of SOKAPU A lack of synergy between the government and the people seems to prove an albatross. Unlike when previous governments had its indigenous officials interacting with Southern Kaduna people, and explaining the roles of the government, the present officials from Southern Kaduna in El-Rufai’s government seem to have alienated themselves from their own people, thereby allowing rumour mongering and perpetuation of falsehood to send communities on edge. Mutual suspicion existing between Southern Kaduna communities and herdsmen has been a major factor that is yet to be tackled. Since the Zonkwa killings in April 2011 and other attacks on some communities, previous administrations in the state have not shown clear commitment in returning peace to the troubled area. This fact was clearly buttressed by Governor El-Rufai, who alluded to the fact that resurging violence in the area has been hinged on failures by past administrations to implement recommendations for peace.

Charting New Peace

At present, the area has become an insecure zone, with inhabitants dressed in frightening uncertainties, not knowing when next the attackers will strike again. This is just as SOKAPU’s leadership has called on the State and Federal Government to move fast and save the people from the deadly weapons of the herdsmen. For peace to reign in the area, SOKAPU is calling for the “arrest and prosecution of all the terrorists; setting up of permanent security formations in the area; encouraging the State Government to intensify its intelligence gathering mechanism and also include aerial surveillance of those attack-prone villages as a proactive measure and the State Government is specifically requested to as a matter of urgency come to the aid of the injured and the displaced, as a means of proving to them that they indeed have a Government that cares for its people. “In view of the fact that Boko Haram has been degraded; cattle rustling was brought to an end in Kamuku forest in Zamfara State by the Joint Action of several states and the Federal Government. We call on both the State Government and Federal Government to place greater premium on human lives by carrying out decisive and combined operation to halt the genocide immediately in order to assure the people that we are indeed part of Kaduna State and Nigeria.” More importantly, the need for the setting up of a Peace and Reconciliation Commission, as recommended by both the AVM Ishaya Shekari and Abba Dabo Peace Committee set up by Yakowa, a recommendation that was re-echoed by General Martins Agwai’s Committee, needs to be revisited. The commission can then become the anvil upon which peace measures can be vigorously implemented, in collaboration with traditional and community leaders being arrowheads of such peace initiatives.

Will El-Rufai Change The Tide?

His emergence as Kaduna State Governor brought hope to an area that was enmeshed in despair and bloodbath. That accounted for the sharp division that trailed the 2015 polls. Though the governor has demonstrated a commitment to put an end to the Southern Kaduna violence, the continued bloodbath and the incapacity of the Federal Government to establish a task force to specifically deal with the herdsmen attacks, as it did on cattle rustling in some states of the North-west geo-political zone, has led to many people doubting the intention of El-Rufai to tackle the problem. As the Southern Kaduna people continue to lament their plight in the hands of suspected herdsmen, the state government has declared its intention to stave off further attacks on the communities. The recent order by the governor on the police to arrest the mastermind of the Chawai attack, according to a government insider, is a clear demonstration that the state government is set to walk its talk to bring peace to an area that is increasingly becoming a stranger to peace.

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