Adds: I won’t appease criminals
…Tasks Gen Agwai’s C’ttee on solution to crisis
…CAN offers to partner KDSG on peace
…Gunmen kill over 100 Muslims in Southern Kaduna — Council of Imams, Ulamas
…Govt has questions to answer — Lekwot
By Luminous Jannamike & Ibrahim HassanWuyo
Kaduna State governor, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, has said the crisis in Southern Kaduna is unending because some leaders in the area want money for peace to reign but vowed not to appease criminals.
The governor spoke as the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday promised to partner Kaduna State Government in finding a lasting solution to killings in the area.
This is even as the Council of Imams and Ulamas in Kaduna State alleged that over 100 Muslims had been killed by Christian militias in Southern Kaduna, lamenting that the killings had gone unreported by the media.
Meanwhile, former Military Governor of old Rivers State, Major-General Zamani Lekwot (retd), has said government had a case to answer over killings in Southern Kaduna, wondering how foreigners perpetrating the act entered the country.
Governor El-Rufai, who spoke on a Channels Television programme Sunday night, said previous administrations in the state used to pay some of the leaders who allegedly organize killings.
He said some of the leaders in Southern Kaduna were aggrieved because he stopped the purported payment to them.
‘I stopped paying peace money’
The governor said: “Most of them who have no means of livelihood were living off the governments. The governments before us were paying them money every month; they called it peace money. We stopped it. This is why they say I am taking sides.
“Whatever they say, I take it. I am the governor of the state. If they don’t abuse me, who will they abuse? Anyone that is moderate or promoting peaceful co-existence between various ethnic groups is considered a sell-out.
“For a governor like me who does not appease them because they are used to being appeased, they cause trouble, they organize these killings and then, their leaders are invited by the governor, they wine and dine and they are given brown envelopes. That’s what they have been doing for 20 years.
“We came into office and said no more, nobody who does not encourage peaceful co-existence will have access to the governor or Government House. I have no time for them.
“I have no time for nonsense. I will not appease criminals. I will not appease idle people who have nothing to do but to raise a spectre of genocide. They do that to get money into their bank accounts and get donations from abroad instead of standing up.”
The governor added that he is using the security agents to “carefully mark” the leaders indicted in the insecurity in the area, adding that the state will prosecute them “when we accumulate enough evidence.”
“They have come up with other things because the money they got during the election is exhausted and they can say whatever they want to say. I will not appease troublemaker.
“I will not tolerate people that incite. I will map them, we will arrest and prosecute them, that’s my style, I obey the rule of law.”
‘We’re committed to ending cycles of violence’
However, at a meeting with President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Reverend Samson Ayokunle, at Government House, Kaduna yesterday, Governor El-Rufai expressed sadness at the loss of lives in a totally unnecessary frenzy of communal attacks, reprisals and revenge.
He welcomed the visit of the CAN leadership and promised to consider the eight recommendations made by Revd. Ayokunle for implementation.
“While we mourn the dead, our immediate focus remains to stop the cycle of attacks and reprisals. We remain committed to ending the legacy of violence that has blighted the state for 40 years,” he added.
El-Rufai pointed out that “part of the false narrative of the history of violent conflict in Southern Kaduna was the loose use of terms such as land-grabbing and genocide.
“They are being used in this current cycle of conflict, just as they were in the 2016/17 and the 2011/2015 cycles.”
The governor challenged anyone to characterize or differentiate the communal clashes, attacks and killings in parts of Northern and Central Kaduna State, as well as in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Niger states from those in Southern Kaduna.
“Is it because in all the other cases, the victims are lesser humans or lacking in voice and media hype? What happened to our common humanity?,” he asked rhetorically.
According to El-Rufai, government has “been consistent in saying that beyond boots on the ground, military bases and police stations, the ultimate guarantee of peace is the willingness of communities to live in harmony and their resolve to settle differences through lawful means.
“Some people do not want to hear this because it imposes responsibilities on individuals and community leaders to keep the peace and obey the law, but it is the civilised way to go.”
Reeling out his administration’s efforts at peace building in the last five years, the governor recalled that his first official action as governor was to convene and preside over an emergency security council meeting on May 30, 2015, following reports of killings in Sanga LGA in the hours before his swearing-in on May 29, 2015.
“The outcome of that meeting was the setting up of a committee, chaired by General Martin Luther Agwai, to study and proffer solutions to the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna which had intensified since the violent aftermath of the 2011 elections,” he said.
El-Rufai also said “that emergency security meeting also decided to prepare a White Paper on the report of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee that had been established by the government of late Sir Patrick Yakowa.”
Tracing the efforts he has made for peace since 2015, the governor said that “by early 2016, we took our efforts to build a constituency for peace across the state to another level, collaborating with the Plateau State Government and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.
“In Southern Kaduna, we supported the process of the Kafanchan Peace Declaration as a community-led effort for sustainable peace.
“On Saturday, November 12, 2016, it was with optimism that we unveiled the Peace Apology billboard in Samaru-Kataf and presenting the staff of office to the new Agwatyap, His Highness Dominic Gambo Yahaya.
“The tenet of the Peace Apology was a call for mutual forgiveness and a dedication to peaceful means of resolving differences.’’
The governor lamented that the optimism was short-lived, adding that “the outbreak of sustained peace that we expected was soon shattered by a spiral of violence a few days later.
“We pushed for more security deployment and took the meeting of the State Security Council to Kafanchan on December 20, 2016, in a practical effort at solidarity with the people in a time of peril.
“By early 2017, Kaduna State Government, working with the Federal Government, had answered the decades-old demand for expanded, permanent security presence in Southern Kaduna.
“The Army established a base in Kafanchan, while Kaduna State Government bought an estate to accommodate a mobile police squadron. The Federal Government also extended the mandate of Operation Safe Haven, based in neighbouring Plateau State, to Southern Kaduna and appointed a commander of the rank of colonel to lead it.”
CAN ready to partner KDSG, says Ayokunle
The CAN President, Reverend Ayokunle, had earlier assured that CAN was ready to partner Kaduna State Government to ensure that the crisis in Southern Kaduna did not linger.
He noted that the crisis pre-dated the present administration but advised Kaduna State Government to find a lasting solution to the crisis by learning “from the past in order to draw a road map for the future.”
According to Revd Ayokunle, the continuing crisis has made people to tag it religious or ethnic because it “has given them room to say whatever they are saying.”
He implored government to bring the killers variously referred to as “unknown gunmen” to book, arguing that the rate of prosecution so far was not proportional with the frequency of attacks.
The CAN leader argued that “whoever attacks first and whoever is doing reprisal are both criminals that must be made to face the wrath of the law.’
“The Christian Association of Nigeria is ready to partner with your government and security agents in finding a solution to this matter. Let there be a round table discussion and a pledge of cooperation rather than confrontation.”
Killing of over 100 Muslims unreported by biased media — Kaduna Muslim clerics
In a related development, the Council of Imams and Ulama ( Islamic Clergy) in Kaduna State has accused the media of bias in the reportage about the killings in Southern Kaduna, saying the over 100 Muslims had been allegedly killed by Christian militias and had gone unreported.
Addressing the media in Kaduna yesterday, Secretary General of the council, Yusuf Arrigasiyyu, said although the media was known to be truthful, what obtained was, allegedly, the contrary as media practitioners upheld ethnic and religious sentiments in their reportage.
“No person of good conscience, Muslim or any religious believer, will overlook the recent killings of over 100 innocent Muslims and destruction of their property and settlements in different locations within Southern Kaduna,” he said.
He alleged that the killings and destruction were carried out by suspected sponsored Christian militias in Southern Kaduna .
According to him, these killings of Muslims was “deliberately not reported by any media outfit, including those media houses who were mischievously propagating the reprisal attacks against the Christian communities in Zangon Kataf.”
He said even innocent travelers were not spared during the attacks, while the killings were “covered by the media who will always prefer to change the narrative in solidarity with their faith and ethnicity.”
He said right from the time of the killings till date, he had never read in any media a condolence or show of solidarity from any part of the country sympathizing with the families of the slain Muslim victims who were mercilessly killed in Zango Kataf earlier, that might have resulted in the reprisal attacks by unknown gunmen.
Malam Arrigasiyyu expressed dismay that some individuals and groups in Southern Kaduna were good at inciting and propagating violence in the area in order to achieve cheap popularity and massage their political interest.
He said: “Let us state it categorically clear that unless Southern Christians refrain from killing innocent Muslims living in the area which belongs to all of them, there can never be lasting peace as no one has monopoly of violence.
“However, in the spirit of peaceful and cordial relationship, this council is urging the peace loving Christians in Southern Kaduna and Nigeria at large to engage the criminal elements in Southern Kaduna and advise them to desist from the wanton killing of their innocent Muslim neighbours for peace to reign permanently in the area. Violence never brings development and progress in any community.”
While calling on security agents to be on their feet to protect lives and property of innocent Nigerians, the Imams and Ulama,however, called on Muslims to resolve conflicts through non- violent means.
“This council urges Muslims to resolve any conflict through non-violent means, while they pray for permanent peace in all parts of Nigeria, particularly in the North where the enemies from within and outside the country are working towards its destruction,” he said.
Govt has questions to answer —Lekwot
Meanwhile, founder of Southern Kaduna Elders Forum and former Military Governor of old Rivers State, Maj. Gen. Zamani Lekwot, retd, has insisted that Kaduna State Government must provide answers to questions of the violence that erupted between Muslims and Christians in Zango-Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Lekwot, in a chat with Vanguard, said the killers in Southern Kaduna are foreigners.
He said: “They are not living in the community. They come, kill and go away. If they live in the community, the community members will know them, and the scale of the killings shows that these are not local people.
“They are foreigners and are armed to the teeth. So, the question is: how do they get into this country so heavily armed and undetected? The government has some questions to answer.
“Also, you know, it is happening not only in Southern Kaduna, it is happening all over Nigeria. Why should it be so? We were living in peace.”