By Luka Binniyat
Worried by media reports over the attacks on Atakad community by alleged Fulani herdsmen, the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, has been briefed on the matter by Gurara Forum – a group of southern Kaduna indigenes campaigning for peace, justice and the realisation of Gurara State from the present Kaduna State.
Meanwhile, a conflict was averted in Kafanchan, in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State, as natives protested the murder of some worshippers in a local church and the stabbing to death of three villagers at the outskirts of Katsit inhabited mainly by Hausa settlers. The deaths occurred close to a bridge that connects Kastit and Kurdan village where one of the victim, Ibrahim Silas, came from. Another victim, a mechanic, Ibrahim, according to Sunday Vangaurd source, was killed and his body mutilated.
The Atakad live about 250km south-east of Kaduna metropolis, on the range of hills that extends from Kagoro, in Kaduna State up to the Ganawuri in Plateau State, spreading southwards to form the Mada hills in Nasarawa State.
Atakad hills are of profound historical and cultural importance to southern Kaduna, serving as a fort for many tribal groups during ancient wars, mainly waged by Jihadists and slave raiders of the 1800s. According to historians, that range of hills formed one of the major reasons southern Kaduna was never conquered by invaders.
Blessed with perennial streams, and lush grassland and woods, the Atakad hills are a magnet for herdsmen, who, as long as memory can recollect, lived happily with their hosts, even during the 2011 post-election violence that saw the exodus of Fulani in some parts of southern Kaduna.
But, all that went awry last April. Two dead Fulani cows, allegedly poisoned in Zankan, an up hill Atakad village owned, introduced blood bath in the Atakad villages in Kaduna and Plateau States. Subsequent invasion of the villages by alleged Fulani herdsmen led to the killing of not less than 50 people, and the displacement of about 10,000 natives who were secured under harsh conditions in three refugee camps in Atakad chiefdom.
Adu, a small Atakad farming village that prospered through irrigation and livestock, was attacked in the early morning hours of September 1, leaving seven persons dead. Six Fulani men, said to have been arrested by neighbouring villagers while washing their blood stained clothes by sunrise that morning, were taken to Kaduna for investigation, as confirmed by Kaduna State Police Command spokesman, DSP Aminu Lawan, to Sunday Vangaurd.
Gurara Forum, led by Mr. Vincent Bodam, asked the NHRC to intervene on the attacks on the Atakad people. The Forum also invited critical stakeholders from southern Kaduna, including the representastives of the Atakad at the National Assembly, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, (SOKAPU), the Atakad cfhiefdom, academics and legal minds from southern Kaduna for the briefing.
After listening to the woes that had befallen the Atakad people, Odinkalu said he would also hear from the Fulani.
“I am here on a learning mission after all that has taken place. I have heard from you. There is no excuse whatsoever for people to live under such conditions. I am going to have a meeting with the Fulani people and I will also hear from their side. After that, the Commission will undertake a tour of the affected villages. This will give us better glimpse of the situation. And I hope something will be done about this”, the NHRC said.
Kafanchan was under 24 hour-curfew after trouble broke out over alleged murder of worshippers in a church and the killing of a woman and two men as they made their way back to their villages from Kafanchan.
Natives pointed accusing fingers at Hausa/Fulani Muslim residents in the town.
Muslims and Christians relationship had been at all time low since after the 2011 post-presidential election violence, which led to a large section of Christian residents and business premises torched. Mosques and Muslim businesses and homes in Christian strongholds were also attacked. No one is sure of the exact casualty, but it was in scores. The Hausa/Fulani Muslim community makes up less than 20% of the population of Kafanchan with the controversial Jema’a Emirate boasting of about three major streets only. It is said to be the smallest emirate ever.
The Tuesday mayhem led to the burning of more shops, two private hospitals and a private school. According to the Fantsam Foundation, its clinic treated five gunshot victims. Sunday Vanguard could not confirm any loss of life.
Soldiers were drafted to the town and stopped the spreading violence, before a 24-hour curfew was slammed over the area.
A statement from the governor of Kaduna State, Alh. Mukhtar Rammalan Yero, signed by Ahmed Maiyaki, Director General, Media and Publicity, urged the people of the area to shun rumors and any act capable of disrupting peace and order.
The statement said, “Security agencies have already commenced investigation into the matter and will soon apprehend those found culpable.
“The governor has also directed the state bureaus of both Islamic and Christian Affairs to commence the process of sensitizing followers of the two faiths in the area and engage religious leaders on the need to continue to peacefully coexist as one people.
“The governor has also asked security agencies to provide maximum surveillance in Kafanchan and environs towards ensuring the maintenance of law and order”.