By Agaju Madugba

FOR Kaduna state, 2015 started on a bloody note in January and ended with an orgy of violence on December 12, in Zaria, where soldiers in the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, clashed with members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, popularly called Shi’ites. The group was reported to be in a procession, carrying out its annual “changing of flags,” ceremony to usher in the Islamic month of Maulud, birth month Prophet Mohammed.

At the end of the fracas, the Army said that seven members of the group were killed but the Shi’ites sect claimed a figure of   well over 1000 persons including those who were killed the next day when soldiers demolished the   residence of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the group’s leader who was consequently arrested.

The incident has since become a subject of national controversy even as the Army said that the group made an attempt to assassinate Buratai. “The sect, numbering hundreds and carrying dangerous weapons, barricaded the roads with bonfires, heavy stones and tyres. They refused all entreaties to disperse and they started firing and pelting the convoy with dangerous objects, according to Army Spokesman, Sani Usman.

The rest may become history but earlier on January 2, unidentified gunmen attacked and killed Yohanna David Shinkut, the District Head of Zangang Atakar Chiefdom of Kaura local government area of the state. Reports said that Shinkut was returning home from Manchok when the gunmen ambushed him. Barely three weeks later on January 27, unidentified gunmen had also attacked a funeral ceremony in another southern community in Kamanton Chiefdom of Kafanchan local government, killing seven persons.

Violence equally trailed the start-off of the 2015 electioneering campaigns in Kaduna in February following the death of at least one person at Rigasa in Kaduna metropolis. The campaign train of former Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero was passing though the area when some of the PDP supporters reportedly clashed with the then opposition APC. Apart from the dead, no fewer than 33 persons were said to have sustained varying degrees of injuries aside the vandalization of about 33 campaign vehicles.

The spate of violence that characterized the campaigns perhaps came to a head in April when days after his emergence as the Governor-elect, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i’s campaign coordinator, Markus Ishaku, was murdered in cold blood at his Atuku Kasa village in Jema’a local government area. Reports said that gunmen stormed his residence, shot the politician several times and disappeared into the thin air.

El-Rufa’i’s inauguration, the change initiative

After several years of the PDP rule, the APC “change” slogan also came to roost in Kaduna as in some other states, with the inauguration of El-Rufa’i as Governor on May 29. But violence nearly marred the programme at the Murtala Square as unidentified persons started hauling missiles at the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris, who was seated at the VIP stand, along with some other dignitaries. “Bring down the Emir so that we’ll kill him,” a cross section of the protesters demanded and dared security personnel present to stop them. Security men eventually smuggled the Emir and the new governor out of the venue.

The inauguration saw El-Rufa’i announcing his intention to introduce certain reforms to correct what he considered several years of misrule and to return the area to the path of sanity. “As soon as we have all the facts in the coming weeks, we shall lay bare to you just how deep a hole we have dug ourselves in the past several years,” El-Rufa’i had said, noting further that, “but this much we already know: our finances are in shamble. Kaduna is  the  second  most indebted state  in  our country.

Our state is  staggering  under the weight of  billions of naira in debt and other liabilities.   The state of our state is abysmal. Too many of our children are hungry and in rags and on the street. Our society is divided along religious and ethnic lines. Worse still, our state cannot stand on its own feet. We have become a state of beggars, a condition of dependency that is an affront to our dignity and our humanity.”

Government probes community killings

Some two weeks after his inauguration, gunmen struck again, perhaps to notify El-Rufa’i that it would be business as usual, at least in the area of the killings and unprovoked attacks on Kaduna communities. On June 17, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen attacked the Katsak village of Jema’a local government area killing nine persons with a similar incident occurring the same night at the Ungwan Danborno community of Birnin Gwari local government area where unidentified bandits also murdered five other persons while a total of about 15 persons were said to have sustained injuries during the two incidents.

Following the killings , the Governor raised a committee to probe the spate of killings especially in remote communities. He named a former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd), as head of the committee. El-Rufa’i explained that the move was part of government’s multi-dimensional approach in finding lasting solution to the killings in the area, dating as far back as 2011.

The committee was charged with the responsibility of identifying socio-political and economic factors that promote existing conflicts in Southern Kaduna and advice on measures to be taken by government to address them as well as explore ways of finding mutual solutions that engender reconciliation amongst and between communities in Southern Kaduna and to advice on how the villages and communities of Southern Kaduna would be free from attacks bedevilling it.

Boko Haram attacks Zaria

In July, some members of the Boko Haram insurgent group sneaked into the ancient city of Zaria and launched a most devastating attack in which government confirmed the killing of about 25 persons, most of them civil servants. The victims along with several others injured were at the     Sabon-Gari local government secretariat in Zaria, scene of the attack, which served as one of the centres for the biometric verification exercise of workers.

Reports said that some minutes before 9 am on that fateful Tuesday, a female suicide bomber blew up herself and in the process also injured about 32 persons apart from the dead. El-Rufa’i who visited the scene later described the attack as   a “terrible act of infamy,”

Earlier on June 7, two suspected members of the Boko Haram group were said to have escaped arrest during a gun battle with a team of joint security operatives at Ungwan Keke-B village of Chikun local government area. One of the security operatives was reported killed during the incident.

According to a resident of the area, “we never knew that they are Boko Haram people. We just sighted a team of military personnel cordon the house, and then gun shots filled the air at about 11:56 p.m. which led to their escape and the killing of one soldier after several hours of shooting. One of the suspects got married to his wife who is from Bauchi eight days ago and brought her to Kaduna. Two of the wives were taken away by the soldiers.”

NAF jet crashes in Kaduna

Seven persons were feared killed on August 29 when a Nigerian Air Force) chopper, a Dornier jet 228, crashed at the Ribadu Cantonment located at the old site of the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna at about 6.30 am. Reports indicated that an unspecified number of residents sustained varying degrees of injuries when the aircraft crashed near two buildings at the cantonment. The ill-fated aircraft was said to be on its way to Abuja from the Kaduna Air Force Base.

Kaduna APC suspends Shehu Sani

On December 27, the Tudun Wada ward of the APC announced the suspension of the Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial zone, Shehu Sani. The party explained in a letter to Sani that his suspension from party activities for 11 months was due to an alleged violation of the rules of engagement of the party, factionalizing the party and engaging in anti-party activities by criticizing the policies of Governor Nasir El-Rufai.”

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