Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Over the years, Kaduna State has survived bloody attacks launched, not by outsiders, but by what many have come to regard as “enemies within.” These internecine attacks which centre on religion, tribalism and politics, had sent many innocent souls to their untimely graves and seen property worth billions destroyed. At the end, this has led to further widening of the gap in the sharp divides among residents, especially, of Kaduna, the state capital.
The latest wanton killings and destruction of property, which took place in Kajuru Local Government Area of the state, have led to varying and, sometimes, contradictory throwing up of death statistics by critical stakeholders – including the state governor, Nasir El Rufai and local residents. While the state government initially claimed that 66 people lost their lives in the incident that it said happened on the eve of the postponed Presidential election, last week, the Fulani community put the death toll at 131 while the natives claim to have lost 11 people in the attacks. The state government however updated its position on Tuesday when it said 130 persons died in the attacks.
The killings said to have taken the form of reprisal attacks started from Ungwan Barde, Kufana District on Sunday, February 10 before escalating to engulf neighbouring areas, between that Sunday and Tuesday, February 12. Although this was brought to public notice, some days after the killings, many stakeholders are not happy with the governor and his media handlers for making it appear as if it was breaking news at the time they went public with the report. They consider it an act of deliberate misinformation on his part, although his media handlers insist that his press statement was a child of necessity intended to douse tension in order to discourage further reprisals.
Secondly, critics alleged that earlier media reports made it appear as if only a section of the community, namely the Fulani, were affected by the killings whereas the death toll included the natives, the Adara people, and Fulani settlers. Although no concrete cause has been established in connection with the latest attacks in the local government, located in the Southern part of the state, less than an hour drive from Kaduna, one unfortunate thing is that the people of Kasuwan Magani were still counting losses from similar attacks that occurred a few months ago, before this fresh one took place.
In the latest attack, a resident of Ungwan Barde and a brother to one of the survivors of the attack, shared his sister’s experience on the ground that his name would not be mentioned in print. He said: “On Sunday, February 10, 2019, around 9:30pm while the people have retired to their homes, a group of people armed with machetes, knives, sticks and guns stormed the village and launched an attack.”
Pointing to his sister who is yet to recover from the shock of the attack, he explained that, “the people entered her house at about the said time and greeted, Assalam Alaikum. Her first son, who was having his dinner in his room, thinking they were well-meaning visitors answered them and was trying to come out to welcome them as tradition demands before he suddenly discovered that they were armed. He tried to rush back into the house but they quickly came after him, entered the room and butchered him to death.
“Leaving her son’s room, the killers came into his parents’ room and asked the father to come outside. Sensing danger, he refused to do so. But after a brief resistance, he was dragged outside and butchered immediately. Next was the woman and her children. She was asked to come outside too. But she told them that she wouldn’t go out and leave her children behind. On hearing this they forced her to line up her children with her daughters in front, followed by her and her son. Then they suddenly descended on them with machetes and knives. Amid the melee that ensued, she and her son narrowly escaped death with deep cuts on their foreheads. But her other children were not that lucky. Having cheated death, they were rushed to a hospital in Kaduna.
“Thereafter, the assailants went to her husband’s immediate younger brother’s house. But to the glory of God, they couldn’t gain access to his rooms. So, they moved to the next compound that happened to accommodate the house of their overall elder brother and killed their septuagenarian blind mother, her granddaughter of about four years, who happened to be the grandma’s eye that helped to lead her to wherever she wanted to go.
“Fortunately, their father was not at home. But when his wife saw what was happening, she tried to run to her neighbours’ house who doubles as her brother-in-law. But unknown to her, another group of killers were already stationed there. She ran into their hands and they wasted no time in killing her in cold blood.
“After cutting her down by the entrance of the house, they went inside the house and killed the man, his wife and their son of about seven-year-old. Another woman, who happens to be a daughter-in-law to both men earlier killed, was also killed with a gunshot.
“One of our nephews who had no idea of what was going on was also shot dead. In all, ten people were killed that night: eight adults and two children. At the end of it all, three survivors from our family were rushed to two different hospitals in Kaduna and Sabon Garin Kufana. The boy and his mother have been discharged and they are now nursing their wounds somewhere far away from home.
“I can’t really say what warranted the attack this time around but I think we are just unfortunate that someone have spotted Kajuru as the best place to achieve his or her political gains. It’s really unfortunate for us. But I am optimistic that it will come to an end one day.”
The governor’s on-the-spot assessment
On Saturday, February 16, hours after the postponed presidential election, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, visited some of the scenes of the attacks in the company of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Major-General Faruk Yahaya, Air Cmdr. I. Sani of the Nigerian Air Force, Police Commissioner, Ahmad Abdurrahman and State Director of the SSS, A.I. Koya. The chairman of Kajuru Local Government Area, Cafra Caino and reporters from selected media were also on the entourage.
Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the Governor, Samuel Aruwan, in a statement on Sunday, February 17, said that his principal, during the visit, warned against reprisals and urged communities to shun violence and respect the right of everyone to live in peace.
Aruwan also said that the army boss in his principal’s entourage, had earlier briefed the governor on the recovery of 66 corpses by soldiers at Maro and Iri quarters of the local government while conducting the governor round the scenes of the incident littered with burnt houses and dead animals.
According to Aruwan, before visiting the scene of the killings, the governor stopped over at Kasuwan Magani for a meeting with village heads and community leaders from Kajuru LGA.
“The Kaduna State government notes the concerted and apparently coordinated efforts by bigoted busybodies to deny the Kajuru killings, or to minimise the casualty figures, and the specious arguments being deployed in this despicable quest,” a part of his statement read. “The Kaduna State Government condemns, in the strongest terms, attempts to politicise the killings. Only irresponsible and insensitive people can recklessly dismiss the deaths of members of a community with whom they have no contact. Private individuals and unelected actors cannot be allowed to reduce weighty matters of state security to the province of their limited networks, inexperienced lenses and narrow agendas.
“The government of a state cannot be detained by parochial, ethno-religious, partisan or electoral calculations from doing its duty to provide security, confirm incidents of security breaches, take steps to reassure affected communities and ensure that perpetrators are arrested and brought to justice.”
Reactions to el-Rufai’s comments
One of the groups that made their positions known about the Kajuru incident was the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State chapter. The association, in a statement by its chairman, Rev. John Joseph Hayab, expressed its dissatisfaction with the alarm raised by El-Rufai, describing it as an attempt to stir up violence in Kaduna during the postponed election.
“CAN Kaduna State wish to debunk the false alarm raised about the killings in Kaduna State which have been made to look like a breaking news,” it said. “The press statement by Mr. Samuel Aruwan suggests that the killings in Kajuru Local Government, was committed yesterday (Friday 15/2/2019). This is false in its entirety. We are aware that the incident happened between the late hours of Sunday 10 and 12th February, 2019, at about 100 am at Gindin Gada, Maro Ward of Kajuru Local Government in Kaduna State where unidentified hoodlums went into the village and killed about 11 people in their sleep and this led to reprisals.
“Two of the suspects were said to have been apprehended and handed over to the Divisional Police. It was in the afternoon of the said date of the attack (as contained in the press statement) that the District Head of Kufana, Mr Titus Dauda, and four of his local chiefs, were released after their invitation by the DSS, State Command, on the issue.”
The statement further read: “We see this as an illogical intentional, premeditated attempt at stirring up violence in the state for whatever expected gains. The incidence of raising false alarm by the Kaduna State Government should make Nigerians realize that, some of our leaders are also guilty of hate speech themselves and that makes them major actors in the game that have denied us peace and have claimed the lives of our love ones.
“We call on the general public to treat with disregard the press statement from the office of the Kaduna State Governor and to note that should Kaduna State experience any bridge of security before, during and after the general elections, we shall hold the Kaduna State government responsible.”
The Assistant National Secretary, Adara Development Association, (ADA) Barrister Luke Godwin Waziri, in his own statement alleged that the governor, in the course of mentioning some villages that were attacked, intentionally excluded Ungwan Barde where his people were attacked and killed.
The statement read in part: “it becomes necessary to highlight the high- handedness and mischievous manner that the governor of Kaduna State has been deploying against us as a people. Not satisfied with a deliberate attempt to balkanize our traditional institution and culture, the governor is currently trying to instigate a crisis in our area.
“On Friday, February 15, on the eve of what would have been our national elections, we watched with shock the governor granting an interview that 66 people were allegedly killed in Kajuru, Kaduna State. The governor went ahead to list the number of villages that were attacked but deliberately excluded Ungwan Barde where our people were killed. He also gave the gender statistics of those allegedly killed and the tribe of the victims but again, mischievously left out the 11 Adara people who were killed.
“He insinuated that the incident happened on the eve of the election. But the truth is that the incident took place between Sunday, February 10 and Tuesday, February 12, this year, at Ungwar Barde, in Kufana District, where 11 innocent Adara people were earlier killed without any provocation.
“The district head of Kufana, Titus Dauda, wrote an official report to the police about the incident. The member representing Kajuru in the Kaduna State House of Assembly also informed the government about the incident. Even the chairman of the Local Government, Cafra Caino was also aware of the incident. But to our greatest surprise, the chairman did not take steps to set the records straight when lies were being spread against the people he leads.
“After the incidents, the communities that were affected even came together and started the process of reconciliation amongst themselves. Throughout all these, nothing was heard from the government. Nothing was said by the government and nothing was done. None of the affected communities was even visited by him.
“We were shell-shocked, when, on Friday, the Governor issued a statement about killings days after the dust had settled and the people themselves were working to understand the incident in order to find measures to address it.
“Faced with mounting pressure to prove his allegations of ‘66 killed’, the governor hurriedly visited some few places but ensured that the district head of Kufana, Mr. Dauda Titus and the National President of the Adara Development Association, Mr. Dio Maisamari, were quickly arrested and locked up for the duration that he visited. The reasons are just too obvious! The district Head was released only when the governor had concluded his visit while Mr Dio is still being held by the Police.”
Reactions to the attacks
In its reaction, the North’s foremost socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), said it was deeply pained by the recent unwarranted loss of innocent lives and destruction of property in Kajuru.
A statement by the National Publicity Secretary of ACF, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, described the development as heinous and callous acts by the gunmen or bandits, considering the number of casualties allegedly recorded.
“Killing of innocent people for whatever reasons cannot in any way address the perceived concerns or grievances of the perpetrators of these crimes,” the statement read. “ACF would not be tired of appealing to all aggrieved persons to always channel their grievances through due process of law rather than taking the law into their hands.
“This is because both the attacks and reprisals are often targeted at innocent people who know nothing about the feuds. ACF condemns such spate of killings of innocent people by armed bandits and gunmen, not only in Kaduna State but also in some other parts of the country. The forum, therefore, calls on the security agencies, to always be proactive in their operations in order to avert such incidence as much as possible.
“Furthermore, perpetrators of this dastardly acts must be brought to book to serve as a deterrence to others. The issue of intelligence gathering and sharing should be a continuous and sustained effort by both the communities and the security agencies to ensure peaceful coexistence within the communities.”
Like the governor, Fulani youths, under Jonde Jam Fulani Youth Association of Nigeria (JAFUYAN), have called on their people not to take laws into their hands. But they also warned against repeat of onslaught against their people in the area. The leader of the Association, Saidu Maikano, called on President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Nasir el-Rufai, to find lasting solution to the perennial crisis in the zone, recalling years of peaceful co-existence between Fulani people and the natives and wondering what could have gone wrong to bring about animosity between them in recent times.
According to him, “we won’t take the law into our hands. Let’s us pray for the dead that God may grant them eternal rest. But enough is enough for whoever is causing this crisis, so that we can continue to live in peace with one another irrespective of our religious and tribal differences.”
The youth leader also expressed worry over the inability of governments to address the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna, just as he called on political leaders, to take proactive measures to end the menace.
“This is not to say that we believe in vengeance. We have left everything that happened to Allah, and we will ensure that we live peacefully with our neighbours just as they will also live in peace with us. We are therefore calling on both the Federal and state governments to put in place all necessary measures in order to forestall future occurrence,” he pleaded.
Security agents’ side of the story
On the part of Nigeria Police Force (NPF), several attempts made to get police reaction from the Commissioner of Police, Kaduna State Command, Ahmad Abdulrahman and the spokesman for the Command, DSP Yakubu Sabo, were not successful as they were said to be having a meeting when Saturday Sun visited the Command last week and this week. They did not also respond to calls and short messages sent to their mobile phones.
But the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted the GOC, 1 Div, MajorGen Faruk Yahaya as saying that “troops deployed to the area after the attack, assisted by some villagers, discovered 37 bodies of women and children buried in a ditch and the settlements burnt.
“We were informed that the women were lured by the miscreants to the stream, and on getting there, they were slaughtered. The figure of deaths recorded by us is 66, but in collaboration with sister agencies, we will ensure peace is restored and people return to their settlements.”
The Commissioner of Police was also quoted as saying that though the police had mopped up the area, but residents who fled their settlements are yet to return because of the fear of possible more attacks. He was reported to have confirmed arrest of seven suspects in connection with the attack who he said would be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded.