By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor
One of the survivors of last Wednesday’s attacks in some Southern Kaduna communities, Mr. Cleophas Yohana, in this exclusive interview, gives chilling details of the incidents. Yohana, a councillor in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, says attackers mutilated the body of casualties and threatened to return. He also accuses security agents of providing cover for perpetrators despite the curfew imposed by the state government.
What happened last Wednesday in your locality?
In my place, Kurmin Masara, we lost 15 people. Kurmin Masara is divided into three and we are in the old Kurmin Masara. We have Atak’Mawei, Takwa Isah and Kurmin Masara. These are the areas we lost people. We lost three in Kurmin Masara.
We lost 12 people in Takwa Isah and Atak’Mawei. That brings the number to 15. Before the attacks, there was a rumour that they were coming to attack us, using four groups. We were imagining how that could be possible, only to hear gunshots a few minutes past midnight.
We wondered what could be responsible for the gunshots. We called different communities to know whether the attackers were the ones shooting, but they said no. Shortly after that, we started hearing more gunshots. It was strong and loud because they were using high calibre weapons.
When we heard that, we knew they were attacking a neighbouring community, Apyia’Shyim, in Kibori. While going to render help, some of us were close to the area but learnt that they were already attacking our place. We had to return home to help the situation.
What did you see upon returning home?
When we got home, we saw that everywhere was burning. They set many houses ablaze. More than half of the houses in our place were burnt down. They burnt some people with their children inside their rooms.
Some, after shooting them, they cut them with machetes. They removed the eyes of some victims and went away with them. Elsewhere, they killed seven people. A victim’s corpse was discovered yesterday. We had thought the number was six. After killing him, they removed several parts from his body and went away with them for ritual purposes.
When they had succeeded in killing people and destroying houses, security agents came, distracted the attention of the people and brought three vehicles from Zango, where soldiers are camping and moved them out of the environment. In trying to escape, some of them who could not enter the cars left through a community, Magamia where they shot two people dead. These people were not even included in the number.
Therefore, if we add this number, we may have up to 24. When the security agents arrived at Kurmin Masara, the attackers were hailing them. Instead of shooting them, they escorted them until they exited from Kurmin Masara. The security vehicle was giving them cover until they found an exit. The attackers came with cars that they used in carting away choice property. Before any house was burnt, they went in and selected the type of property they wanted.
Up until now, we have not heard anything from the government, especially the Kaduna State government. They have neither condemned the attack nor sympathised with the people in the area. Government is doing nothing to help the situation. The happenings show that they are behind these people, who they said are on revenge missions. As a councillor, representing Zamando Ward, I am saddened by the situation. Wounded people are lying in hospitals without money to pay for hospital bills. Nobody is coming to their aid.
How come the communities were overpowered even when you have local vigilante groups?
The attacks were planned in such a way that even if a neighbouring community wants to assist another under attack, it won’t be possible. The attacks happened simultaneously so that people won’t be able to assist those in distress. They said they are going to return for another attack.
They said those they targeted were not killed. They have specific people they want to kill. We don’t know what we did wrong. We have been keeping them in our communities for decades without knowing that it would result in mass killing of natives. In fact, they put their belongings in some of the houses that were destroyed.
The person that led the attack was the Ardo, Fulani word for a community leader, in our area, who left the community. He was staying in the community before. Those who were hiding in maize farms during the attack saw him. He has a younger brother, who came with him. Two other Fulani people, who were staying in the community, accompanied them for the attack. They led the attacks alongside mercenaries they invited. They know every route and exit. That was why they carried out the attacks with precision.
You said the people who led the attacks were residing in your community. What could have made them attack the same people they had lived with and were they driven out of the community?
Nobody drove them away. When they were leaving, the community told them not to leave. The community went as far as asking them why they were leaving but they didn’t give any reason. What really transpired on June 10, 2020, was what led to all these killings. They, Fulani, slaughtered one Chaweh indigene. His name is Yusuf Magaji.
After the killing, people were busy searching for his corpse. When the corpse was found, we realised they were the people that killed him. When they knew that the corpse had been found, they started to run away because they knew what they had done. They knew the reaction that would follow.
We tried to discourage them from leaving, but they refused and ran away. It was after they left that they returned to attack us. We can’t say what we have done to have warranted the killings.
After the attacks, what is the situation in your community?
There are people currently in the community, but some are moving out. As I am talking now, Friday evening, my wife has left for Kaduna because she was scared of staying back. Today, my mother and other family members are leaving. Since the attackers said they are returning, many people are leaving.
Only the men said they are going nowhere. They are staying back to defend their land. Some men are also running. We are not stopping those who have decided to leave. We are here and would secure our place by the grace of God. An audio message was released by the attackers.
In the message, they said we would be driven away from this land. They said they would drive us away to Jos where we would meet our brothers. They added that even in Jos, they would attack us and slaughter us. The message is circulating on WhatsApp. The message was recorded in Hausa language.
Where specifically are the displaced people now?
Some are in our primary school. Some refused to go to Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps. They went to meet their relatives in the city while some are still wandering about.
They don’t have anywhere to go. Some were calling me to come, but because of the number of visitors, I am receiving I have not done that. I will do so today. The community decided to bury the dead a day after the attack. I have pictures of the dead and burnt houses.
Since it appears the place is not secure, what is giving you and others the sense of security to stay back?
We have local vigilante groups who are moving around to see what they can do. The community is organising itself in such a way that we can secure the place. If we decide to run away, they would bring their cows, destroy our crops and do unimaginable things. Before leaving, they said they would return with their cows, settle there and see who would come and remove them.
Southern Kaduna people have said severally that land is central to the killings. Is land also a major reason for this attack on your community?
This is the first time they are attacking our community because they want to take our land. It won’t be possible for them. Their mission is to take over the land. They have been trying to buy farmlands in our place and our people have been refusing.
They want us to agree so that they can be doing whatever they want to do and our people are not ready for that. We know the type of people they are. If you allow them, a million of them would come and occupy the community and you would no longer have a say in your place.
The governor even said we don’t want to accommodate strangers in our villages. Such a statement can cause problems. It has further fuelled the crisis. What the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU, President said is what is really happening. Laduga is part of Zangon Kataf. They removed a part and joined it with Kachia simply because they want the population of Muslims to be larger than that of Christians.
They did it to ensure that they would have numeric strength over us during elections. By the time they add what they have in Zaria axis, they would have numeric edge over us. That is their target. The plan is to bring people here and give them an emirate because they don’t want to live under our kings.
They don’t like people ruling over them. Anywhere they settle, they want to be the king of the natives. The promise that they would have an emirate is among the things making them embark on the killings.
Do they, attackers, come masked or…
Some come in military uniforms, using rubber boots. Others come in mufti with arms and charms. Vehicles convey some to places where they attack. As they are carrying out the operations, they move around with the vehicles picking choice items from houses. After the attack, the vehicles convey them out.