Who’ll save the people?
Indigenes and residents of Southern Kaduna in Kaduna state can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed because of the nefarious activities armed killer men. ELEOJO IDACHABA, in this report, takes a look at what analysts have referred to as well co-ordinated and planned attacks on the hapless, aged and the children.
When everyone thought peace had finally returned to the restive southern part of Kaduna state after the last general elections, the area is up again in the news for the wrong reasons.
For Mrs. Adisabatu Bature, an indigene of Zango Kataf local government area of the state located in Southern Kaduna, even though she does not reside there, for her, living has no meaning any longer because she has lost almost all her relations to the ceaseless killings in that part of the country.
In a chat with Blueprint Weekend, she said, “Life has become useless because of killings going on in Zango Kataf. Everyday, people are buried because of attacks from armed men in military uniforms. Sometimes, they come on motorcycles during the day and kill everyone they can see. Mass graves are everywhere. Farmers can no longer go to their farms while many have been displaced from their homes because of attacks. The funny thing is that we don’t know the reason for this wickedness on innocent people.”
Blueprint Weekend gathered that the Southern Kaduna town of Kafanchan, its adjoining villages and other local government areas are worst hit with gory pictures of slaughtered women, children and aged men.
‘Govt not doing enough’
In his view, Gabriel Saleh, who represents Kachia, Kagarko Southern Kaduna Constituency in the House of Representatives, puts the blame at the feet of the federal government, saying it had failed to provide the needed security in the North, especially in Southern Kaduna as against what the government does in other parts of the North.
Saleh said, “The federal government has failed on security. In the last two weeks, countless numbers of persons have been killed in Southern Kaduna. Our government has failed in that regard and that was why we voted out the PDP-led government in 2015. My advice is for the government to relieve the current service chiefs of their positions.
“We voted for you Mr. President because you are a retired military General. Now is the time for you to allow states and local government police system to work so that governors can take charge of security by appointing police chiefs within their domain without recourse to the centre before taking any action.
“State governments are weak with all the confusion on ground as attackers continue to wreak havoc. If the government on ground is not objective enough, and appears to take sides, that is the reason for what is happening in Southern Kaduna.”
An expert’s take
Also speaking, a retired military officer, Col. Hassan Stan-Labo, an indigene of Southern Kaduna, said all is not well with the security architecture in the North, especially Kaduna where bandits are allowed to fester with countless attacks leading to deaths. He blamed the government which he said “often takes sides whenever crisis begins.”
He said, “The government only comes out to arrest the youth whenever they go out to retaliate, but no bandit/attacker has ever been arrested and prosecuted for as long as I can remember. It would not be correct to equate Southern Kaduna crisis with farmers, herders’ clashes; so no one should claim that it’s a misunderstanding between farmers and herders. This is purely a well co-ordinated plan because of the nature of the attacks.”
On its part, the African Action Congress party (AAC) national chairman, Dr Leonard Nzenwa, said Nigerians are horrified by “the barbaric slaughter of fellow citizens by terrorists, bandits and kidnappers without any of them being arrested for prosecution as against the number of casualties from such attacks.”
He warned of the consequences arising from the fear of being attacked as most farms are now deserted on account of mindless killings by marauding herdsmen, saying the country would experience low yields in agriculture, this year.
“AAC calls on President Buhari to lead from the front in the war against terrorism and banditry as a retired army General, former military head of state and incumbent Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
“Therefore, any government that fails in this critical obligation to the citizenry has failed in its social contract with the people that voted it to office,” he said.
Agoro tasks federal, Kaduna govts
In his view, a former presidential candidate of the National Action Council (NAC), Dr. Olapade Agoro, charged the federal and Kaduna state governments to end the genocide against the Southern Kaduna people, especially Christians.
He said in a statement that, “It is unfortunate that at a time the world is pre-occupied with concentration on the horrors of crime against humanity in Darfur, another one is being allowed in Southern Kaduna. It becomes apt to say that common sense dictates that there must be an end to this nonsense.”
He said further that, “How else can I classify the horror situations of reported 62 Christians killed by Fulani terrorists in Kaduna state within just one week of July 25 ending. This is in addition to the previous over 300 lives of helpless Christians killed and houses razed without any resistance from a government that is under oath to safeguard lives.”
Southern Kaduna lawmakers’ warning
As part of their stand on the killings, the Southern Kaduna caucus in the House of Representatives has urged the federal government to take “immediate steps to deal with militias carrying out premeditated killings as well as their sponsors in order to avoid a situation of self-help.” Addressing journalists on the killings, the lawmakers said “until the government identifies and bring to justice sponsors of the militia groups, which have been placed on standby to continue to create havoc in communities, the people may resort to self-help.”
The group’s spokesperson, Gideon Gwani, said security operatives in the area appeared overwhelmed and have not been able to stop the killings.
“As representatives of the people of Southern Kaduna, we state unequivocally that the life of every citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, regardless of ethnic, religious or ideological differences, must be protected as required under Section 14(2) (b) of the1999 Constitution (as amended).
“We condemn the armed attacks and killings of the people of Southern Kaduna by the armed militia groups or any group whatsoever no matter their motive and we condemn the justification of any attacks on our people or any reprisal attack.
“We call for the arrest, investigation, prosecution and conviction where necessary of these attackers so that they can desist from unleashing mayhem on the people of Southern Kaduna.”
Meanwhile, a civil society organisation, Alliance for Surviving Covid-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), has claimed that the federal government was incapable of dealing with the violence in the country, especially in the North.
The chairman of ASCAB, Chief Femi Falana (SAN), in a statement said, “It is undoubtedly clear that the government has shown lack of capacity to deal with the sad events. The federal government has run out of ideas in bringing a stop to the violence and armed brigandage regularly occurring in Kaduna and other affected states.
“Nigeria is fast becoming a state of blood where human lives no longer matter. It is unfortunate that while the federal government invests billions of naira in the procurement of arms to fight violence, it has failed to develop an appropriate economic roadmap to deal with one of the root causes of violence which is poverty.”
Military on the media
In its take, the Nigeria Army believes that the “media is responsible” for what it called unbalanced reportage of the killings. This was the view of the commander of Operation Safe Haven, Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, who briefed newsmen after a security meeting with Governor Nasir El Rufai and representatives of other security agencies at the Government House in Kaduna.
Okonkwo in particular blamed the media for ‘one-sided narrative’ of the killing which many labelled it as ethnic-cleansing.
“What we have were attacks on some communities and reprisal attacks. The reports are not balanced. Perhaps, most of the media houses don’t know that both sides are actually involved.
“You have Kataf youth, Fulani militias and the criminal elements on all sides. Some people are also leveraging on the security situation to perpetuate their criminal activities, aside from the communities involved in the crisis,” he said.
In a chat with this reporter, the president of Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Jonathan Asake, said the mayhem in that part of the country has continued because of what he called conspiracy theory by some persons against the people of the area.
“Southern Kaduna has been under siege. There is a conspiracy theory against the people by the government. We don’t see their reactions whenever Southern Kaduna people are massacred, but whenever attacks happen in Katsina and Zamfara states, for example, you will see the sympathy the federal government would put up, but with all the horrors in Southern Kaduna, no sympathy from the federal government. With this, you want people to believe that all is well?”
According to him, the federal government and Kaduna state have a way of explaining why killings continue in Southern Kaduna.
“The way communities are invaded and ravaged with women and children being killed, displacement everywhere without anything being done suggests that there is more to it than we think. If the government cannot go after these armed killers, communities should be empowered to defend themselves because it is a fundamental aspect of the Constitution.”
As the killings continue, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has ordered Kaduna state commissioner of police to fully enforce the curfew earlier imposed on the state.
Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), DCP Frank Mba, in a statement in Abuja, said the directive was part of efforts at restoring law and order in that part of the state affected by recent insecurity challenges.
Mba said further that the Kaduna police boss was to personally coordinate the operations of the Intervention Squad that comprised other anti-terrorism/counter agencies.
SB Morgen’s report
In the meantime, a report by SB Morgen, Nigeria’s geopolitical intelligence platform, has suggested that over 511 persons have been killed in Southern Kaduna as of July 25, this year. It noted that the statistics were recorded from 83 attacks within the first half of 2020.
“The year 2020 has been a truly difficult year for residents of Southern Kaduna. As of the morning of July 25, 2020, this year has seen 83 distinct incidents in the state which have claimed at least 511 lives,” it stated.
The report stated further that, “This is despite the increase in security deployments including military and Special Forces in the area. Despite enjoying robust security deployments, including Special Forces of the Nigerian Army, surveillance aircraft by the Nigerian Air Force and Mobile Police units scattered across the region on a 24-hour basis aimed to quell such violence, there appears to be little hope that the violence would cease.”
El Rufai’s admonition
In what appears as a reaction from the Kaduna state government, Governor Nasir El-Rufai said the activities of bandits were pure criminalities and not ethnic or religious cleansing. According to the governor, “The best guarantee of peace is the willingness of communities to live in peace and harmony and a resolve to settle differences through exclusively lawful means.”