By Dapo Akinrefon, Sam Eyoboka, Omeiza Ajayi & Andy Asemota
Ongoing killings in Southern Kaduna has continued to elicit reactions from Nigerians and pressure groups from different parts of the country, as Southern and Middle Belt leaders yesterday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently put an end to it to save the country from drifting into anarchy.
Similarly, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, and National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, while also condemning the killings, charged the Police and other law enforcement agencies to sit up and stop the blame game in order to bring the perpetrators to book.
This is even as Christian Rights Agenda, CRA, flayed the President and Kaduna State Government for not doing enough to protect the people of Southern Kaduna, asking the United Nations and International Criminal Court, ICC, to probe the killings.
It will be recalled that nearly one hundred people had been killed in the area in the last seven days, and not even the imposition of a curfew by Kaduna State Government could put a stop to the killings, as seven more persons were killed weekend.
Acting under the aegis of Southern and Middle Belt Forum, SMBLF, the leaders, yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to step in and bring the perpetrators of the act to face the law.
In a statement by Yinka Odumakin (South-West), Chief Guy Ikokwu (South-East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South) and Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle-Belt), the leaders also warned the Presidency against making statements seeming to justify the killings.
SMBLF writes Buhari
The statement read: “The Southern and Middle Belt Forum, SMBLF, is outraged by the latest wave of killings in Southern Kaduna in which Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU) has claimed the deaths of 63 people.
“It is quite worrisome that the orgy of killings has continued, in spite of the curfew imposed by the stare government. In the past weeks, there have been reports of killings, especially in the southern part of Kaduna State, with the most recent massacres at Kukum Daji and Gora Gan put at 33 deaths, aside from the scores who are in hospitals receiving treatment from various degrees of gunshots.
“However, instead of the Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria stepping in to find a lasting solution in the midst of tardiness by the state government, it is unfortunate that it has resorted to provocative statements.
“One of such is the annoying claims credited to the Senior Special Assistant (Media & Publicity) to the President of Nigeria Malam Garba Shehu on July 21, 2020, that ‘the problem in Southern Kaduna is an evil combination of politically-motivated banditry, revenge killings and mutual violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious grounds.’
“As if the above confusion is not enough, Garba Shehu further misinformed the Nigerian and the international communities that ‘Southern Kaduna enjoys comprehensive security deployments, including the Army, Special Forces of both the Army and the Air Force, surveillance aircraft by the Air Force and Mobile Police units that are on the ground on a 24-hour basis to forestall criminality and keep the peace.’
“These are not responsible statements from any government in the midst of body bags daily being counted by the people of Southern Kaduna in the hands of alleged Fulani marauders.
“We, therefore, call on the Buhari government to immediately stop the killings, bring the perpetrators to book and stop making statements seeming to justify the killings and deceive the world about the situation in the area. Only bloody-minded people will refuse to heed this advice now.”
Let Fulani list grievances— PFN
Reacting to the killings yesterday, Secretary-General of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Apostle Emmanuel Kure, appealed to Fulanis in the country to itemize their grievances after a collective gathering of their kith and kin from across the country and table same before relevant authorities.
“If the Fulanis are on vengeance mission, they may have to spill so much blood before they are assuaged because they will have to contend with several enemies in all the nook and crannies of Nigeria as they are already scattered in all parts of the country,” the Kafanchan-based Apostle Kure asserted.
According to him, the Fulanis have a very good chance of getting their demands now as their own is at the helm of affairs in the country.
Noting that they might kill all Nigerians by the way they were going about campaign for vengeance, the PFN scribe said: “Alternatively, from among the educated Fulanis, they should articulate their grievances and make their demands clear as other ethnic groupings like the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and others have been doing. Failure to do that, they might stir other tribal groups to take to arms.”
Arguing that nobody has the monopoly of violence, Apostle Kure said enough is enough, stressing it was necessary to avert a fight back from those being attacked.
While not encouraging violence, Apostle Kure, who said the the people of Southern Kaduna had lived together with the Fulanis, added: “Some mistakes have been made in the past but the whole essence of creation is to live together in harmony. We make mistakes and we correct some, so we can live in harmony with one another.”
NHRC condemns killings
On its part, the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, condemned in strong terms, the incessant killings and wanton destruction of properties in various communities in Southern Kaduna and some other parts of the country, charging the Police and other law enforcement agencies to sit up and stop the blame game so as to bring the perpetrators to book.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu, who stated this while reacting to the current wave of killings in Southern Kaduna, said the primary duty of government and its security agencies was to protect lives and property of the people, as guaranteed in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as other national, regional and international treaties to which Nigeria is a signatory.
He stated that the alleged invasion of Gora Gan village in Zango-Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State which resulted in the killing of no fewer than 10 persons, including a 7-year-old boy and the village head “is most annoying and devastating.”
He also lamented a similar incident in Kakun Daji village in Kaura Local Government of Kaduna State where 21 people were allegedly murdered in cold blood by gunmen.
The NHRC boss called on relevant ministries and agencies of government, such as the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to visit the affected communities and provide the necessary humanitarian support and aid to the families of victims and survivors to forestall further violation of their human rights.
Ojukwu called on the Police and other law enforcement agencies to refrain from watching helplessly while the lives of those who they were supposed to protect are cut short by miscreants and other categories of enemies of the state.
“This is to rekindle people’s confidence in the government which has a sacred duty to protect their lives and properties despite any security challenges,” he said.
He contended that state and local government policing structures could no longer be wished away, especially in the wake of grave security challenges as senseless killings, kidnappings, banditry, sexual and Gender Based Violence, SGBV, communal clashes, ethnic and religious violence etc. in various parts of the country.
“Most of these criminal elements are citizens and they live among the people in various towns and communities. Accordingly, state and local government policing will surely rid the society of criminals who unfortunately pose a serious challenge to the protection of human rights over the years,” he said.
He also reiterated his call for the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Panel on Reform of Special Anti-Robbery Squad SARS and the Nigeria Police Force which, among others, recommended the establishment of State and Local Government Police to check the spate of criminality and insecurity in the country.
Gov El-Rufai speaks
The state governor, Nasir e-Rufai, had weekend, said insecurity in the state was being perpetrated by criminal elements who had been killing, kidnapping people and rustling cattle in the entire North-west region.
He lamented that the activities of the bandits were being coated as ethnic and religious when they occurred in the southern part of the state, adding that this tends to exacerbate communal tensions and pitch people who have lived peacefully together against each other.
The governor, who noted that attacks by bandits were not localised to any part of the state, said the state government had taken steps to secure the southern part of the state, including ensuring that a military base and two mobile police squadrons were located there.
He, however, stressed that in addition to security presence, peace required that everyone should obey the rule of law and avoid self-help, “because ultimately peace depends on the willingness of people to live in harmony and to settle their differences peacefully.”
“These criminals attack people, irrespective of their religion or ethnicity and they have been perpetrating their reign of terror in Giwa, Birnin Gwari and parts of Igabi Local Government Area.’’
CRA wants UN, ICC to probe killings
Irked by the current wave of killings in Southern Kaduna, the Christian Rights Agenda, CRA, in its reaction, accused President Muhammadu Buhari and the Kaduna State government of turning a blind eye to the genocide against indigenous Christians in the state, alleging that the duo had continued to make lame excuses for genocidal criminals.
The CRA in a statement by its Media Office in Abuja yesterday, consequently called on the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, ICC, to move in, with a view to averting a re-enactment of the Rwandan genocide.
“It is the well considered view of CRA that international bodies such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, ICC, should open an investigation into the on-going killings in Southern Kaduna without further delay,” the rights group stated.
Specifically, it called on the ICC to mobilize with immediate effect, and set up a fact-finding panel in order to end what it called a pogrom before it was too late, insisting that the Nigerian state under President Buhari has failed Nigerian Christians.
According to the group, the earlier the situation is put under control, the better in order to avert a Rwanda experience.
It stated: “The fact that the core duty of government is the protection of lives and property cannot be wished away. It is on record that neither Buhari nor El-rufai has issued a statement commiserating or condoling with the victims of #SouthernKadunaGenocide.
“Governor El-Rufai in particular even apologized to the people of Birnin-Gwari area for his government’s inability and failure to protect them from attacks by bandits. Why has he not done so for #SouthernKadunaGenocide? Is it because they are Christians?
“CRA notes with pain that from nonchalance, government’s attitude towards the fate of northern minority Christians in Southern Kaduna has risen to the level of deliberate mis-information, with a view to changing the entire narrative, ostensibly to cover-up an orchestrated plan to annihilate the people and take-over their lands.
“Both President Buhari and Governor el-Rufai are northern Muslims whose positions on religious issues have always betrayed lack of statesmanship, especially in a secular state as Nigeria.”
The CRA lamented that over 50 people had been killed in Kaura, Zangon-Kataf, Kauru and Kajuru Local Government Areas of the state in the last one week, describing the situation as unacceptable.
“CRA has maintained that the federal government of Nigeria, led by Buhari and Kaduna State government should have questions to answer in the carnage and bloodbath that have become the lot of innocent and defenceless Christian peasant farmers of Southern Kaduna that at every attack, the state and federal government, respectively, take turns to make excuses for the genocidal criminals.
“This is heightened by the fact that both the President of the country and governor of Kaduna are not only Muslims but have presided over government policies that did not protect the interest of Christians in the country.
“In the latest attack, presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, quickly attributed the renewed killings in the Christian dominated Southern Kaduna to ‘revenge killings and mutual violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious grounds’.
“CRA believes the federal government is not only complicit in the protracted violence that has claimed several lives but wonders what the federal government has done with the security information at its disposal in the last five years.
“Or is the Presidency scared of saying the formidable security arrangement is in place to protect the Fulani militia, while they kill innocent Southern Kaduna indigenes? Let Buhari stop the perfidy.
“Statistical information at the disposal of CRA indicates that from 2018 to date, no fewer than 15,000 Christian children, women, old and young have been maimed and killed by armed groups alleged to be Fulani terrorists in Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue and Taraba states, while the Federal and state governments have been unable to protect them.
“This is in addition to another 620 people who have been brutally murdered, according to documents obtained by CRA from The International Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, ISCLRL.
Katsina elders bemoan rising wave of insecurity
Meanwhile, Katsina State Elders’ Forum yesterday condemned the insecurity pervading the state, especially the seven front line local government areas bordering Kaduna and Zamfara states.
The forum expressed sadness over the worrisome killings in some part of the state, even as it acknowledged federal government’s concern to end the bandits activities.
The socio-cultural body, under the leadership of former Minister of State for Finance, Alhaji Abu Gidado, urged the government to intensify more effort to eradicate the bandits and restore peace in the affected areas throughout the North West.
This, the group said, in a statement jointly signed by Gidado and its secretary, Alhaji Aliyu Sani Mohammed, would help the common man to concentrate on his farming activities.
According to the elders, “the state government is doing a lot in the form of assistance to complement the security agencies fighting the bandits.”
They Forum, however,condemned the bickering between the government officials and a Katsina-born businessman, Mahadi Shehu, warning that “as elder statesmen, we call for restraint so as not to drag the image of the state in bad light.”