The slaughter of 33 people in Kajuru Local Government Area in Southern Kaduna, is a national disgrace. It is unfortunate that after the full scale massacres in the area between October 2016 and January 2017 led to a national outcry and promises at the highest levels of government to restore and maintain peace in the troubled Southern Kaduna, nothing seems to have changed.
The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, had promised to stay on top of the situation. The Police had promised better intelligence, rapid response and pre-emptive actions. The recent killings belied these promises. The Nigerian Army 4th Battalion’s Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) covering Zangon Kataf, Jema’a, Kaura and Sanga local councils was also not able to prevent the massacre.
It is an understatement to say that the security situation in Southern Kaduna is precarious and that peace there is fragile. The narrative of the genesis of last week’s bloodletting makes the point. There is no dispute on what happened: On Saturday, the umbrella body of the Fulani Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria alleged that one of its members was killed by youths from Kadara and Gwari communities. The next day, Fulani youths went to a village at Ugwan Uja to avenge the murder of their kinsman, killing six. As narrated by the Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mr. Agyole Abeh, the next day, Kadara youths mobilised and went all out and attacked Fulani settlements in reprisal. By the time Police arrived, 26 people, including women and children, had been killed.
It has been alleged that the Fulani man whose killing led to the crisis was a known bandit who had been harassing the neighbourhood; that this was explained to the head of the Fulani community who also knew the man to be a bandit, but the Fulani youths insisted on avenging his death. The chief of Kajuru was reported to have called the Fulani leaders and explained what happened to them, but, as a Kadara youth told newsmen, “we were surprised that in the early hours of Sunday, they came and carried out the attack.”
The attempted justification of the killing of the so-called “Fulani” bandit, underscores the depth of the problem and how hard Nigeria needs to work to enthrone the rule of law. The Kadara youths probably never heard that the best way to hold a bandit accountable is to hand him over to the police, who would then arraign him in a court of law and, if found guilty, punish him according to law. The Kadara youths probably knew about this process but were afraid, like many Nigerians, that the system might misfire and the bandit would get away. The fear that the system might fail is a worldwide phenomenon. But, it is the most dependable and fairest process. The frequent resort to jungle justice in recent times is a country-wide problem which demands an intensive nation-wide campaign. This makes it imperative that Civics should be made a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools.
We cannot express too strongly our utter revulsion for the scant regard for human life in the country. It is sad that life has become so cheap that the killing of bandits, and bloody reprisal attacks, are beginning to be accepted as normal. The only way to underscore the illegality and unacceptability of this mindless resort to jungle justice is to apprehend the killers and bring them to justice.
We think the Police have not done the best job in the circumstances, given that when the first killing occurred, they ought to have anticipated that reprisals are bound to follow, knowing the culture of the environment. We cannot tire to mention that the best practice for the maintenance of peaceful co-existence in a state where there is so much mutual suspicion is intelligence, the ability to anticipate and pre-empt violence before it starts.
We think the Kaduna State Government should do more to ensure the peace it has promised to maintain in Southern Kaduna. There is no doubt that it is impossible to foresee every communal fight, but careful planning, and cultivation of inter-communal communication channels between the Fulani and the farmers, ought to be a continuous process in which every little fire or sign of violence must be followed up to ensure it does not morph into bigger conflagrations.