By Ben Agande, with agency report
Kaduna—Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has appealed to the people of Southern Kaduna zone, where he said 66 persons were killed recently, not to politicise the killing of innocent people by criminals, vowing that his government will stop at nothing to ensure that perpetrators of such heinous crimes are brought to book.
The governor stated this, yesterday, after he was led to the scene of a recent crisis in Kajuru Local Government Area, where he claimed 66 persons were killed.
However, Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU, the umbrella body for the people of Kaduna south, has accused el-Rufai of taking side in the latest killings in some communities in the state.
In a statement by his spokesman, the governor said the state government would not allow itself to be hamstrung, while performing its responsibilities.
According to Aruwan’s statement, “Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai has visited the scenes of the Kajuru killings. The governor was accompanied on the trip by Major-General Faruk Yahaya, GOC 1 Division of the Nigerian Army; Air Cmdr. I. Sani of Nigerian Air Force; Police Commissioner Ahmad Abdurrahman and state Director of DSS, A.I. Koya. The Chairman of Kajuru Local Government Council, Cafra Caino, also joined the governor on the visit.
“The Kaduna State government notes the concerted and apparently coordinated efforts by bigoted busy bodies to deny the Kajuru killings or to minimise the casualty figures, and the specious arguments being deployed in this despicable quest. The Kaduna State government condemns in the strongest terms attempts to politicise the killings.
“Only irresponsible and insensitive people can recklessly dismiss the deaths of members of a community with whom they have no contact. Private individuals and unelected actors cannot be allowed to reduce weighty matters of state security to the province of their limited networks, inexperienced lenses and narrow agendas.
“The government of a state cannot be detained by parochial, ethno-religious, partisan or electoral calculations from doing its duty to provide security, confirm incidents of security breaches, take steps to reassure affected communities and ensure that perpetrators are arrested and brought to justice.”
You’re biased, SOKAPU replies him
However, responding to the claim by the governor, Publicity Secretary of SOKAPU, Yakubu Kuzamani, accused the governor of religious bias, saying, Southern Kaduna people were still at a loss as to the motive behind the governor’s outburst at such critical period in the history of the country.
“We are of the view that el-Rufai’s comment over the Kajuru killings was deliberately orchestrated to inflame ethnic and religious sentiments to produce yet another cycle of bloodshed,” he said.
Giving its version of events that led to the tragic deaths, SOKAPU said: “On Sunday, February 10, 2019, Adara natives residing in Ungwar Barde in Kufana District of Kajuru Local Government Area came under attack by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen. The attack lasted from 10 pm on Sunday to 4 am of Monday, February 11, 2019.
“By the time the merchants of death and destruction were through with their mission, no fewer than 11 lives, including a pregnant woman, were lost. Scores of victims of the attack on Ungwar Barde sustained injuries, with some of them still receiving treatment at some health facilities in the state capital. We have been informed that the attackers, seven of them in number, were arrested by a team of policemen.
“Following the Sunday attack on Ungwan Barde, residents of Ungwan Busa and Doruwa located in Kajuru LGA deserted their villages for safety. District Head of Kufana and four of his village heads, on the directive of the governor, have been summoned to Kaduna and ordered to produce persons behind ‘reprisal attacks’.
“However, the monarchs have told their interrogators that they are unaware of any ‘reprisal attacks’ and, therefore, unable to identify persons behind such attacks. Apart from the 11 corpses of Adara natives killed during the Sunday attack, the community leaders have denied knowledge of any attack.
“Arising from the above, SOKAPU is shocked at the deliberate falsehood by el-Rufai who found it convenient not to inform the world of an earlier attack that claimed the lives of 11 Adara natives.
“SOKAPU is convinced that Governor el-Rufai is on an irrevocable journey of inflaming ethnic conflagration that has always been in line with his deliberate chronicle of profiling Southern Kaduna people as favourably disposed to violence.
“We wish to inform Nigerians and the world that it has always been in the character of the governor to promote violence through spreading hate speech for the advancement of his waning political survival.
“If the governor, who was aware that Adara natives were killed on Sunday, neglected to come public, then Nigerians and the world are well placed to understand the nebulous and evil motives of el-Rufai who once shocked Nigerians on national television that he had paid sums of money to foreign herdsmen involved in attacking communities in Southern Kaduna.
“SOKAPU is calling on the Inspector General of Police and the Director of Department of State Service, DSS, to carry out an independent investigation and tell the world the truth of what actually happened in Kajuru.
“We are startled that it was the governor and not the police that announced the alleged killings in Kajuru. Let Nigerians and the world know that, should there be any breakdown of law and order in Kaduna state, Governor el-Rufai should be held responsible.”
Security agencies confirm mass killings
Meanwhile, security agencies in Kaduna State have confirmed mass killings in villages in Kajuru Local Government Area of the state.
The Nigerian Army put the casualty figure at 66 dead. The police did not state a casualty figure but said at least six persons have been arrested in connection with the violence.
The confirmation came amidst criticisms trailing the announcement of the killings two days ago.
While some people said the state government is not the proper body to announce such incident, others question the government on why it delayed the announcement till Friday evening when the killings started late last Sunday.
CAN berates govt
Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, criticised the government over the timing of its announcement of the killings.
In a statement, yesterday, the Kaduna State chapter of the association described the announcement as “intentional” and a “false alarm.”
It said:“The press statement by the spokesman for Kaduna State Governor, Mr Samuel Aruwan, suggests that the killings in Kajuru Local Government Area were carried out Friday, 15/2/2019. This is false in its entirety.”
State govt exaggerated figures —Sani
On his part, Senator representing Kaduna Central, Senator Shehu Sani, said the El-Rufai government exaggerated the casualty figures. Kajuru Local Government falls under his senatorial district.
He said:“What I found out about the killing is that it happened between Sunday and Monday. The casualty figure for the deaths is within the range of 10 and 15. The state government exaggerated the figures and also timed its announcement in view of the fact that place is remote and beyond the reach of many journalists.”
He insinuated that the government’s delay of the announcement was politically motivated.
“By his (el-Rufai) utterances, body language and behaviour, this man does not prove to be someone interested in free and credible elections. Also,for a man who bragged about body bags, when he talks about corpses you should be able to understand his obsession,” he said.
Some people have also argued that such mass killing did not actually happen. While appearing on Channels TV programme on Saturday, a former head of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, said he could not confirm the killings took place after contacting several sources in the area.
He said the report of the killings might have been part of the design by senior politicians in the country to create scenarios that could be used as a reason for the postponement of the elections.
37 were ‘slaughtered’ at river bank—Army
Meanwhile, General Officer Commanding One Division of the Nigerian Army, Faruk Yahaya, has said 66 persons were killed in the mayhem. He said 37 of them were ‘slaughtered’ at a river bank.
Yahaya said: “We have shown you the other area in that village, where according to information, the residents were lured to a riverine area and slaughtered.
“A total of 37 were said to have been buried there. You have seen the grave there and you have also seen elements of their materials that were on the ground, including some traces of blood. 500 metres from there, you see this village, you can see what happened.
“Now, information has it that it also spread to other villages. Various distances from here, some, one kilometre, some two kilometres. You know how the Fulanis are, they are far apart. That’s the information we have.”
6 suspects arrested — Police
Meanwhile, Nigeria Police said it has arrested six people in connection with the incident.
Also on the visiting trail of the governor, Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Ahmad Abdurrahman, said the suspects would be charged to court as soon as possible.
He said: “Since the military has gone that far, we’ll work in collaboration and cooperation. The police went on the other way and effected some arrests. Even today, we effected some arrests. They are now undergoing interrogation at the state CID. When I get back, we are going to reveal what they have gotten so far.”