By Ben Agande, Kaduna
21 persons according to the spokesman for Kaduna State Police Command, Sabo Abubakar, were killed in Angwan Aku in the volatile Kajuru in southern Kaduna area of the state.
The latest incident paints a gloomy picture of the escalating violence in the southern part of the state. In the last three months, according to statistics provided by security agencies and sources within the southern Kaduna communities where attacks have been rampant, more than one hundred people have been killed in tit-for-tat attacks between Fulani herdsmen and the local Adara communities.
It is not easy to unravel how the attacks started or which side of the violent isle began the attacks. Though the attacks between the Fulani and the local communities predated the present administration, there seems to have been an escalation especially from the beginning of this year where the scope and intensity of the attacks have increased dramatically.
But what engendered the recent controversy that has put the Kaduna killings in the limelight is the role of the state governor in announcing the figures of what he said was killings in Kajuru.
While addressing a delegation of the International Republican Institute, an American organisation in February, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, on Friday, said, “I got a report of the killing of about 66 Fulani at Maro in Kajuru Local Government. I think this is deliberately designed to cause a reprisal and destabilize the local government during elections.”
El Rufai’s revelation was further expanded by his media aide, Samuel Aruwan, who in a statement gave further details about the killings. He said, “Security agencies reported the recovery of 66 bodies that were killed in attacks by criminal elements on various dispersed hamlets in the Maro Gida and Iri axis of Kajuru LGA.
“The settlements affected include Ruga Bahago, Ruga Daku, Ruga Ori, Ruga Haruna, Ruga Yukka Abubakar, Ruga Duni Kadiri, Ruga Shewuka and Ruga Shuaibu Yau.”
He gave a breakdown of the victims as 22 children and 12 women while four wounded persons were rescued by security agencies are receiving medical attention.
Expectedly, the unorthodoxy of the governor disclosure of the casualty figures prompted controversy with the Adara community who bore the brunt of the persistent attacks on the Kajuru communities, accusing the government of partiality in its treatment of victims of attacks in the community.
The National Assistant Secretary of the Adara Development Association, Waziri Luka, in a statement, said, “The unfortunate crisis that erupted in Kajuru local government provided an opportunity for statesmanlike conduct to flourish from the consciousness of those with the responsibility of dispensing not just justice but good governance. But what we got instead was an aberration.
“Our governor who was quick to reel out statistics himself to the media has probably not seen that Karamai, Ungwan Barde, Dogon noma, Kymara and Ungwan Gora villages have all been attacked and burnt down to the ground”.
Since that unfortunate incident in which many herdsmen were allegedly killed in retaliatory attacks, violence has been on the upward swing. On February 26, the police confirmed that 29 persons, including a policeman, were killed in yet another attack in Kajuru. In the latest attack, the police confirmed that 21 persons were killed.
With almost daily killings in the area, is there a possibility of peace between the Adara and the Fulani communities? According to the governor, resorting to self-help by any aggrieved community is certainly not a way to resolving whatever differences that may exist between the communities.
Addressing inmates of an IDP camp in Maraban Kajuru, el-Rufai said that all communities in the state must reject an eye for an eye stance in resolving differences, adding that an attitude of attacks and reprisals only produces pain and suffering.
“What we saw is unfortunate, but we must speak out and tell our people the right thing to be done. An eye for an eye is not a solution to the vicious cycle of killings and will complicate and undermine collective efforts”, the governor said.
“Our admonition is simple. If Fulani or Adara communities have complaints of killings or attacks, they should report and allow security agencies and government to take up the administration of justice. If these communities resort to taking the laws into their own hands, it will not work. That is not the solution.
“Security personnel and assets cannot be in every inch of our state. Communities must stop this abnormality of taking the laws into their own hands. It has never worked and will never work.
“As a government, we will continue to collaborate with security agencies, traditional and religious institutions in peace building, but we will be frank to our communities. They have lived peacefully before this mistrust and they can rekindle the glorious past by simply not taking the laws into their own hands and doing away with jungle justice.
“On our own part, we will do our very best in protecting lives and property. We will also not shy away from applying the law to anyone found complicit in the violent communal conflicts, irrespective of their status, religion, ethnicity or political persuasions. Let us cherish all lives. No life is more precious than another life”.
El-Rufai said those who sought to politicise security challenges by creating false narratives are not helping the matter.
Deficit of trust
Though government has demonstrated its commitment to addressing the security challenges in the state, there appears to be deficit of trust between the people and government. Conscious efforts must be made to ensure that government’s actions and utterances are not interpreted to mean taking sides with either of the parties in the conflict. There must be a massive deployment of security personnel to police the volatile areas of Kajuru where killings appear to be on a daily basis. Until this is done and the people are convinced that government can indeed protect them, the cycle of attacks and reprisals may not end soon. Sadly only innocent people, especially women and children are the ones that bear the brunt.