Hausa farmers had been living peacefully with their Fulani counterparts until last year, when some Fulani boys began to terrorise farmers in the communities.
Abdullahi Hassan, Zaria
Another outbreak of crisis is looming in Kaduna State following an alleged invasion of some Fulani communities by security personnel and members of the local vigilance group in Giwa and Igabi local government areas.
While the local security authorities accused children of Fulani herders of masterminding the frequent cases of kidnapping and robbery in the area, the Fulani communities in turn point fingers at the local vigilance group and the soldiers, accusing them of confiscating hundreds of their cows, invading their homes, setting their houses ablaze and killing some of them.
The dispute, already resulting in an uncommon outpouring of bitterness between the Hausa farming community and their Fulani neighbours, begun a few months ago but it is already growing at alarming rate.
Malam Ibrahim Jauro confirmed the series of unfortunate incidents that set the tone for the present crisis.
“It was exactly a month ago, at about 4:30 am, when members of the vigilance group, together with some soldiers, invaded my house. They burnt my belongings and cart away over 500 cattle and grains while I ran into the bush for safety.”
He further alleged that three months ago, the vigilance group killed more Fulani people in Kidandan village for no reason and carted away hundreds of their cattle.
“Two days later, when I returned from Sabuwa village market, the vigilance group arrested and took me into the bush, tied and beat me mercilessly,” he narrated.
“In fact, they would have slaughtered me if not because of the Ardo who pleaded with them. Go and ask anybody in Kidandan, they will tell you this story.’’
He recalled that there was a similar incident at the home of one Alhaji Usman in Kidandan, saying that the invaders carted away all his grains and left him with nothing.
“The painful thing in all these is that up till now, I am yet to know my offence. Our cows are in NDA, Kaduna, with the military. I saw them when we went there with Miyetti Allah, but they refused to give us back our cows,’’ he alleged.
Similarly, one Alhaji Umar Galadimawa narrated his own unsavoury experience in the hands of village vigilance group.
He said Fulani in the communities have been subjected to undue harassment, adding that in some cases, they confiscate their cattle and in other cases, threaten to kill anybody who dared resist their subjugation.
“Our 200 cows were taken away by the soldiers and the vigilance group, although nobody came to our house or molested any member of my family,” he alleged.
He contended that the vigilance group ad the security had hidden under the unproven excuse that Fulani youths were terrorising the members of the community to embark in some of their unspeakable acts.
He, therefore, appealed to the authorities, especially the state government to take steps to end to the unjust treatment of the Fulani communities in these areas.
Usman Abubakar Karshi, another member of the Fulani community, who claimed he was attacked last month, accused the soldiers and the members of the vigilance group of raiding and searching his house without an authorization adding that he was at Galadima market when they executed the search on his home.
“On my return from the market, I suddenly discovered that they had already ransacked my house and had carted away 200 of my precious cows” he stated.
“I reported the matter to the executive of Miyetti Allah and they promised to follow up the matter,” he revealed.
“Miyetti Allah took me to Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Dr. Shehu idris. Later, we met the General Officer Commanding (GOC) First Mechanized Division. He insisted that I swear by Allah that the cows were truly mine, before they would be handed over to me.
“I accepted to swear, but later, he directed that I should be taken to NDA to pick up my cows.’’
Usman Abubakar Karshi complained that the number of cows returned to him were far less than what was carted away while saying that the worse was that some of the cows were not even his, but belonged to some other people.
He appealed to the government to end this act of cruelty and bring back his property.
“If we had committed any offence against the state, let us be made to face the law and punished if we are found guilty. It is wrong and unjust to punish innocent people outside the legal process,’’ he stated.
Kaduna State chairman, Miyetti Allah, Alhaji Haruna Usman has since confirmed the brewing dispute, admitting that he was briefed by members of the Fulani communities in Kidandan, Dogon Dawa and Giwa Local Government Areas.
They alleged that some members of the local vigilance group, alongside some soldiers had invaded their houses, killed many people and carted away their cows, he stated.
He recalled that they received another report in October of a similar incidence in which more than 4,000 cows and hundreds of goats were taken away.
“We reported the matter to the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris, who personally intervened and held discussions with the GOC first Mechanised Division m Kaduna,” he stated.
He recalled that the GOC requested Miyetti Allah to submit names of victims with a view to returning their cows to them.
“After submitting names, we were taken to Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, to retrieve our cows, but unfortunately we found only few cows, not more than 94, whereas they took away more than 4,000 cows.’’
Usman said the Miyetti Allah has since submitted names of the suspects with the view to enabling the authorities investigate the matter, nobody had been indicted or taken in for questioning.
He said they were recently invited for a reconcilliatory meeting by the chairman of Giwa Local Government Area.
Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, First Mechanized Division, Kaduna, Col. Mohammed Dole dismissed the allegation of invasion.
“I am not aware of any invasion of any Fulani community by soldiers. I don’t know any meeting held with the GOC,” he declared.
“All I know is that there are soldiers conducting operations in those areas and in the process, they recovered 400 cows recently, and already these cows have been returned to their owners after verification,’’he said.
Col. Dole appealed to all to join hands and resolve the problem.
“Let Miyetti Allah or the affected persons come forward and identify their cows. We’ll give it to them. The officers handling the operations are on the ground.’’ he stated.
Chairman, Giwa Local Government Area vigilance group, Alhaji Usman Abdurraman admitted that he had equally heard of the narrative, but stressed that their group was working with police and not the military, even as he noted that they had no business invading Fulani communities or residence with soldiers.
He said sometimes in the past, there were reports of armed robbery, kidnapping and cattle rustling around Lidandan and Dogon Dawa in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area, situations he said his team and the police were committed to end.
In his defence, chairman of the community’s voluntary vigilance group in Kidandan village, Alhaji Hamisu Shehu denied the accusations, saying there was no such record of invasion in which persons were killed, cows confiscated and houses burnt.
He remarked, however, that sometimes in the past, some soldiers who were on a special operations at Dogon Daji, had visited the village in the wake of report of criminal activities, explaining that the operations were not carried out with the intention of undermining the rights of anybody, but to clear the suspected criminals.
He said the Hausa farmers had been living peacefully with their Fulani counterparts until last year, when some Fulani boys began to terrorise farmers in the communities.
“There have been frequent incidents of kidnapping and robbery in this area, and mostly, the suspects are Fulani children. And of course, most Fulani keep sophisticated weapons in their homes, which pose a threat to the security of these communities,’’ he stated.
Painting a picture of the challenges in the area, he said there had been occasional cases of kidnap of local farmers for which ransoms of millions of naira were paid before they were released.
“And this kidnapping was done by Fulani children whose parents can not stop them’’ he claimed.
Spokesman of Zazzau Emirate, Alhaji Abubakar Ladan Chiroman Shantali, said the Emir had already intervened, saying there were ongoing consultations and mediation committee that have been put in place.
“The Emir has provided for all the stakeholders – the military authorities, the Fulani leadership, the farmers and other security agencies – to meet with a view to ending the frequent burst of crises in the affected communities,’’ he said.