Jonathan Asake, the President of Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union (SOKAPU) is having sleepless nights due to the attacks on his people. In this interview with FRED EZEH, he accused the state government of promoting an evil agenda against his people, while listing the troubles they went through in 2020, including the displacement of 111 communities, payment of N400million as ransom to kidnappers and the shutting down of 65 churches and 27 schools among others.
What’s the security situation in Southern Kaduna at the moment and what has been the communities’ response?
Things are getting worse by the day and no genuine response is coming from the government. Ignore anyone that paints otherwise pictures, perhaps, such persons may have been contracted by the government to do so for whatever political reasons. Instructively, 90 percent of communities in local governments where the Gbagi people are, have been displaced. Those that are still staying in the communities have been enslaved and are being taxed to the bandits. The people pay tax to the terrorists so they could be allowed to stay in the ancestral land. Shortly before Christmas, we visited Gwagwada town in Chikun Local Government Area (LGA) with relief items. We met with the displaced people and they told us pathetic stories of their life. You can imagine that, for them to be allowed to spend Christmas peacefully, they were taxed N3 million. Because they had no option, they taxed themselves and paid the money to the Fulani terrorists. Otherwise, they would have been attacked during the Christmas. There are 24 displaced communities taking refuge in Sarkin power, which is between Kaduna and Niger state. We couldn’t reach some of them with relief items during the Christmas because of obvious dangers of visiting such locations. We suggested that they come out which they did and collected the food items.
Do you have any idea of what these bandits want? Why are they destroying and chasing out people of these communities?
I have said over and over again that their target is to displace the people and take over their lands, and that will not happen. That is all and the government is aware of it and part of the conspiracy. I am not afraid to say it any time, any day. Kaduna state government is part of the conspiracy.
What made you insist that Kaduna state government is part of the conspiracy to overrun southern Kaduna?
I said so because of their body language, utterances and actions, secretly and openly. Obviously, the government is not interested in tackling the insecurity and it is obvious in their actions. We took relief materials to Zango Kataf, and we saw these terrorists establish camp in one of the towns there and they are there. The State authorities are aware of their camp there. They attack and destroy lives freely and unchecked.
But there’s military base in Kafanchan to oversee that area?
What are they doing? Just on Christmas eve, bandits went to a place called Albarka prayer camp and laid a siege to the place. Several distress calls were made to the Military and Police but no response came from them until the Apostle Emmanuel Bako who is the Chairman of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and his wife, Cindy, were kidnapped by the bandits. My brother was also kidnapped at same location not long ago and Four Million Naira was paid as ransom to secure his release. Sometimes, the Military will drop a bomb in some communities killing innocent people in the name of onslaught on bandits. Recently, they dropped one that led to the death of seven people, and they termed it ‘mistake’. That’s the second time it’s happening.
You once said a data of destroyed communities are being collated. What’s the situation now?
The report of the exercise is pathetic. It was discovered that from January 1st to December 2020, there was hardly a day without attack on our people in addition to houses that were burnt, even with periodic curfew, these attacks happened. In Southern Kaduna, bandits, mostly Fulani herdsmen move freely with riffles and other weapons. The kidnapping in Kaduna has become the order of the day. The number of deaths and destructions continue to rise on daily basis. However, there are indigenous rural Christian communities of Southern Kaduna that have been sacked by rampaging armed Fulani militia and displaced to various places and IDP camps in 2020. These villages are now under the full occupation of Fulani herdsmen, some for over a year. There are 32 communities displaced in Kachia LGA; 24 in Kajuru LGA; 56 in Chikun and several other LGAs. The report, which contains record of daily attacks and destructions is available. The invasions, kidnapping and killings are happening on daily basis and only those reported to SOKAPU are documented. In the eastern part of Chikun LGA, 27 Schools have been shut and all the churches, around 65, have been shut down too. According to Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State Chapter, over N400 million has been paid to kidnappers as ransom by these impoverished communities.
Have you reached out to the international community for help?
I have done that. Though, some have called me and I have given them necessary information of what is going on. But that is all I could do. The people are still suffering. People are like slaves in Kaduna state and our communities under Southern Kaduna are really under siege. There were several communities that celebrated Christmas under the same siege the Gbagi communities are going through not to talk of Zango Kataf. So something strange is happening in Southern Kaduna.
What other ways can you engage the Federal or State government on this matter?
How do I engage the state government that has consistently supported the attackers, openly and otherwise? Besides, the Governor, Mallam Nasir El’Rufai, has deliberately made himself unreachable. The Governor told the world times without number that he has nothing to do with our people, even with the SOKAPU leadership. So where do we start? Let me be very frank, apart from the insecurity, the Governor has constantly treated the people of southern Kaduna with so much disdain and neglect. There is no single development in Southern Kaduna among the indigenous communities. Every development that El’Rufai claims is situated right inside the Hausa/Fulani communities. No single infrastructure was done for indigenous communities to enjoy. About 60 per cent of his key appointments that went to Southern Kaduna were given to the Hausa/Fulani Muslim communities. Now let me shock you; our people that were born right inside Kaduna or Zaria, and their fathers were born there are being denied indigeneship. But the government insists that people who moved from northern parts and settled in the southern part must be given indigeneship and remain indigenes. We are not protesting that but same should be done to our people in northern part of the state.