By Mahmood Garba
Disturbed by the relentless eruption of violence in Southern Kaduna resulting in loss of lives and property of residents, Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai has initiated a painstaking process, to the chagrin of traducers, with far-reaching effects to end the crisis.
The most commendable effort is the governor’s bold steps to ensure that the building a military barracks in Kafanchan, Jema’a Local Government Area of the state has been put onto pragmatic track.
The second commendable effort is the implementation of the white paper on the report of “the Committee to Stamp Out Attacks on Southern Kaduna Communities”, which was submitted to him in October last year.
The report shows that the committee, headed by retired general Martin Luther Agwai, had studied the crises in Southern Kaduna extensively and offered wide-ranging recommendations on how to tackle the problem, including recommending the payment of compensation to Fulani herdsmen.
While El-Rufai was receiving the heat over his remarks about compensation, a lot of people are oblivious to the fact that payment of compensation was late Yakowa’s brainchild.
The committee, which drew representations from the army, the police, the department of State Security Services, SSS, traditional and religious institutions as well as academia and civil society groups, take a holistic periscope of the challenge.
Some of the findings of the report indicate that one of the key forces driving the Southern Kaduna conflict include the rise of armed bandits who take advantage of the conflict to engage in armed robbery, rape, abductions and cattle rustling.
“Bandits are taking advantage of the crisis situation to infiltrate Southern Kaduna to commit acts of armed robbery both in home and on highways and cattle rustling, leaving death and destruction of property in their trail ,” the report said.
“It is suspected that some of the bandits are locals. Known individuals have been arrested in location and handed over to the security agencies. However, it is believed that most of them are bandits that have been dislodged from Birnin Gwari LGA and other places,” it added.
However, despite the identification of these problems, the report lamented that “security agencies in all the LGAs visited were accused of ineffectiveness, not being proactive and not cooperating with traditional rulers”.
“The people of Sanga LGA demanded and got the redeployment of the Divisional Police Oiifcer (DPO). They requested that the DSS personnel in the LGA should be removed immediately also because he was said to be working in tandem with the DPO”.
According to the document, some of the areas where criminality is being perpetrated in the Southern Kaduna region include the forests of Sanga and Zangon Kataf local government areas where bandits are “reported to adorn in army and police uniforms during some of their operations”.
Other findings contained in the report include among others provocative preaching by religious leaders, celebrations of religious conversions and forceful abductions and marriages of minors.
As part of measures to resolve these problems, the General Agwai-led committee recommended that “a military presence should be established in Southern Kaduna with at least a unit of battalion strategically located for regular maintenance of security”.
Governor Elrufai literally pestered both President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai until the approval to set up military formations in the troubled area.
Another key suggestion, the report said was the requirement that all foreign (transhumance) Fulani, should be forced to register their arms with the traditional rulers and “Ardos” for onward submission to the police and the SSS.
The report also advocated for security roles to be given to traditional rulers being closest to the people while the government should also encourage visitations from the community leaders.
To prevent clashes between pastoralists and farmers, the report suggested that “Government should clearly re-demarcate and map out all local, state and international stock routes and grazing reserves settlement areas by erecting permanent landmarks to indicate boundaries”.
“Under no circumstances should pastoralists be allowed to occupy areas outside of the grazing reserves settlement areas. Farmers should not also be allowed to encroach on the grazing reserves settlement routes,” the report said.
Atop all these, the report further recommended that government should embark on a joint military operation to dislodge criminals from all known hideouts and thereafter “embark on a demobilization disarmament and rehabilitation program in the entire state”.
This, it said, should be followed by “an arms mop up exercise to recover arms not surrendered (and) those who fail to surrender their arms after a period of grace should be prosecuted”.
However, despite the efforts to the Kaduna state government to implement these recommendations, the crisis is beginning to take a new turn as Fulani settlements became targets of attacks by some indigenous groups in Southern Kaduna in what many observers view as reprisal or unprovoked attacks.
Recently, two Fulani women were ambushed at Zangon Kataf Urban General hospital by irate youths who were protesting the alleged non-release of bodies of those killed in a recent attack by gunmen at Samarun Kataf market.
A resident, Danjuma Musa Koli, who tried to persuade the youths to let the women go, was also reportedly accosted, robbed and nearly murdered but for the intervention of some civil defense corps personnel who rescued him.
“I was rounded up inside the hospital by over 50 irate youths who were about to attack two Fulani women who were at the hospital to see a patient,” he recalled.
“The angry youths descended on me, snatched my N40,000 cash, my motorcycle and other personal belongings, just as they threatened to kill me. I narrowly escaped death as I was rescued by men of the Civil Defence who rescued me before I was macheted,” he added.
Mr Koli, however complained that a station officer at a Zangon Kataf police outpost allegedly refused to record a formal report of the incident.
Similarly, unknown gunmen also stormed another Fulani community in Zankan village, Kaura Local Government in Southern Kaduna where they were said to have killed a boy and injured five others.
Police spokesperson Aliyu Usman while confirming the incident said the gunmen invaded the village around 8:30pm on Saturday, opened fire on the residents, killing a 13-year-old boy and injuring five others.
He also said the police are investigating the report of a foiled attack on Mr Koli at General Hospital, Zango Urban area by irate youths.
A community leader, Mudi Shafiu, the Sarkin Samarin Jama’a gave the name of the 13-year-old who was killed as Yahaya Musa.
It was learnt that the gunmen also carted away undisclosed amount of money from the residents who were said to have inhabited the village for over 86 years.
“We just returned from the burial of Yahaya Musa who was killed by the attackers. We have also sent money to those injured who are currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Plateau State,” Mr Shafiu said.
In yet another incident, the Police spokesperson also confirmed an attack on the Emir of Jama’a, Isa Muhammad’s convoy by armed youths in Samarun-Kataf in Zangon Kataf Local Government Council.
The police confirmation came following the denial of the incident by Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU.
The Assistant Public Relations Officer of SOKAPU and former Special Adviser on Media to late Governor Patrick Yakowa, Reuben Buhari was on the Hausa Service of BBC on January 18, denying the attack on the emir.
However, Mr Usman, an ASP, said the emir’s convoy was attacked by some armed youths and three vehicles were destroyed.
“Police gave the Emir protection against the attackers,” he said.
As against a report that over 700 people were killed, credible figures of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, put the death toll at 204 from October 2016 to early January, 2017.
Some of the issues that instigate the crisis and fuel the embers of enmity among the people are hate speech and concoction of reports. But there are people in the state and beyond who consider the Southern Kaduna crisis as an enterprise, so they stoke the fire with hate speech in order to profit from it. These are the politico-religious ambulance chasers who believe they cannot earn a living if Kaduna is in peace.
While condemning the cycle of killings and reprisals in parts of southern Kaduna as “senseless and inhuman”, the Kaduna State Council of Chiefs and Emirs recently appealing to security agencies and government at all levels to urgently tackle hate speech, divisive rhetoric and incitement.
The traditional rulers said “killings and counter killings are senseless and ungodly”, adding that it does not provide a solution to any problem.
“We must work hard against these threats to our peace and unity. We are also here to commiserate with ‘his Excellency’ on the attack of his convoy when he visited Kafanchan.
“We have to carry out our duties, we shouldn’t leave Kaduna state government with the responsibility of security alone as it was said one tree cannot make a forest. The governor and his deputy alone cannot provide security in the state; we have to put all hands on deck. We should continue to pray in our mosques and churches for peace to reign in our state and the nation at large,” he added.
Many observers are of the belief that no governor in Kaduna State made as half commitment as the El-Rufai administration in terms of finding a lasting solution to the protracted crisis rocking the southern part of Kaduna.