One of the flashpoints of ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria, the Southern Kaduna, has of recent been witnessing tales of wanton destruction of lives and property. The area has become a theatre of horrendous killings of mainly the indigenes by the so-called herdsmen throughout the greater part of November, to December 2016 and to the New Year. Although no official account of the killings has been rendered, it is believed that the death toll is in hundreds. The Catholic Church said more than 800 of its members alone had been killed, but the InspectorGeneral of Police, Ibrahim Idris, disputed the figure. He did not however give a different figure. Governor Nasir el-Rufai said the attackers were herdsmen from neighbouring countries, who had returned to avenge attacks on their relatives and livestock back in 2011. We condemn the killings in particular as most barbaric, unfortunate and unacceptable. We equally condemn, in strong terms, the poor approach of the Kaduna state government, Nasir el-Rufai whose actions and inactions fuelled the crisis. The poor approach to the crisis was ignited as a result of the alleged payment of some ransom to the herdsmen by the Kaduna State government under the leadership of Governor Nasir el-Rufai. The Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union, SOKAPU, had demanded to know the identity of the Fulani herdsmen to whom the ransom was reportedly being paid and the amount involved. In response, the government claimed that it was only implementing aspects of the recommendations made to the previous government of the late Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, who incidentally hailed from Southern Kaduna, by a committee on the same crisis. That committee, according to the state government, had recommended compensation for cattle killed during the post-2011 election crisis in the same area. Rather than bring about the expected solution to the dispute, the el-Rufai government’s claim to a solution exacerbated the crisis. Amidst this controversy and brewing tension between the indigenous people of Southern Kaduna, the Kaduna State government went on to impose curfew as a peace building measure on Zangon Kataf, Kaura and Jema’a Local Government Councils. This step, however, proved counter-productive as the same herdsmen went on rampage, unleashing terror on many communities while they were preparing for Christmas-precisely on Christmas eve. One of the most affected communities, Goska ,was attacked by the Fulani militants and herdsmen resulting in the raping and killing of women, children including the 14-yearold daughter of the former Chairman of Jema’a, Gideon Morik. The Kaduna state’s governor’s attempt to find solution to the crisis did not enjoy the confidence of the affected communities as hundreds of irate youths protesting the frequent attacks and killings in their communities, pelted the convoy of the governor with stones when he visited them on December 21. The mob also set the residence of the Caretaker Chairman of Jama’a Local Government Area, Dr. Bege Katuka, ablaze. The governor, his deputy, Barnabas Bantex, and other top government officials alongside heads of security agencies were on a visit to the crisis prone areas to appeal for calm and to assure them that government was taking steps to address the situation.
It was the fifth time the governor was visiting the areas affected by the attacks. The last visit was said to have been prompted following rising tension in Kafanchan after a 24 hour curfew was imposed by the council Chairman. We condemn the youths of the area for taking laws into their hands in attacking the governor and his entourage. No matter their grievances, their actions cannot be defended on any ground. We still commend the governor for exhibiting maturity and for putting the incident behind him and going ahead to appeal to the people to avoid taking laws into their hands in the event of any crisis. The governor also urged traditional rulers to talk to their subjects against taking vengeance each time there was problem between or among the persons. Although the federal government’s intervention in the crisis came late President Muhamadu Buhari took some measures aimed at bringing peace to the volatile zone. The federal government said in addition to conventional policemen deployed to the area, a squadron of mobile policemen has now been stationed there. It is also encouraging that the Nigerian army is also in the process of setting up two battalions in Southern Kaduna while the military continues to carry out air surveillance across flash points of the area. President Buhari’s Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu who revealed this in a statement said: “These measures should soon ensure the return of normalcy to the region, while the Kaduna State government continues its peace building efforts.” In a similar vein, we also welcome the move by the National Assembly to ensure that the area enjoys enduring peace. Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, said that the Senate would commence investigation into the latest killings in southern Kaduna .According to Saraki, the Senate will on resumption from recess today [ January 10] will make the issue a priority. The development came as the Army said it has not only deployed troops to Southern Kaduna but has also taken full control of the crisis zone. Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Sani Usman, who disclosed this assured that peace would soon be restored in the troubled communities. According to him, “I want to inform you that the Nigerian Army is fully deployed to the southern part of Kaduna State with directive to restore law and order and we might go beyond that. “The Nigerian Army is fully on ground in the southern part of Kaduna State. It is our hope and prayer that the problem that requires this will be nipped in the bud. “The Nigerian Army has made provision for military establishment in that part and any moment from now, we are going to have it.” We wish to commend the initiatives of the various governments and agencies to bring about lasting peace to this troubled part of the country. We are equally appealing to the so-called herdsmen and the youths not to further perpetrate any action that will undermine the efforts at ensuring peace in Southern Kaduna, for without peace there cannot be meaningful development. Enough of ethno religious crises in the area.