Unending bloodshed in Zango Kataf, By Yemi Adebowale

Security clumsiness is unending in beloved Nigeria. It comes with all the trappings of a failed government. For instance, what kind of explanation will our security agencies put up in defence of their failings seven days back in Runji Sakwab, Atyap Chiefdom of Zango Kataf Local Government Area Kaduna State, where 33 persons were murdered in their sleep, 19 of the corpses were burnt beyond recognition? How would they explain that terrorists spent hours in Runji Sakwab without appropriate response from them? Zango Kataf LG has a base of the Special Military Task Force called Operation Safe Haven, charged with maintaining peace and order in troubled parts of Kaduna State, yet, terrorists stroll in and out with ease.

On that day, April 15, the terrorists were not in a hurry to leave Runji Sakwab because they were very sure they would not be repelled by Operation Safe Haven. By the time they eventually left, the community was left in ruins. Runji Sakwab is the third community in Atyap to be attacked by terrorists within a space of about 30 days. Just on April 13, eight people were killed in an attack in Atak’Njei.

It is pertinent to note that Kaduna is a garrison state, with a huge number of military formations. Yet, terrorists roam unimpeded. The Commander-in Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari, who promised to lead the war against terrorists from the front has not raised queries on the Runji Sakwab killings. No security man has been fired. No commander has been relieved of his job. The most shocking is that Buhari has not deemed it fit to condole with the people of Runji Sakwab.

In Southern Kaduna, the war is largely between herders and natives over grazing lands. The herders are also laying claims to lands. This has persisted for years, with thousands dead and so many families bereaved on all sides, but the natives have suffered the most. There are also some conflicts between the natives and Hausa communities. Attacks and counter-attacks have continued due to the failure of governments at all levels to take dispassionate actions to end the bloodshed.

The over 40-year-old crisis took a dangerous dimension under President Buhari and Governor Nasir el-rufai of Kaduna State, with people killed almost on a daily basis in Kajuru, Kauru, Jema’a and Zangon-Kataf and many other Southern Kaduna communities. The April 15 killings in Runji Sakwab were reprisals by Fulani militias. So sad that killers are scarcely apprehended. This is what emboldens them. What we have in Nigeria today is a compromised federal government that can’t protect citizens.

Our President derives so much joy grandstanding about curbing terrorism. He has nothing, in practical terms, to justify his unending vows to crush terrorists. Daily, scores are killed, many abducted and houses burnt across our country. The security glitches under Buhari’s government are ceaseless and consuming too many innocent lives. The security of the people is no longer on the priority list of this jaded federal government. When terrorists strike and there are no consequences, they are emboldened. This is exactly what has been happening in almost eight years of the Buhari government.

Security agents have also compromised. This is why the killings are persisting. Governor el-rufai must show greater commitment to ending the carnage in Southern Kaduna. This governor acts in a compromised manner. He is never there for the oppressed in this state. El-rufai enjoys grandstanding and persistently spins rubbish, without offering relief to victims of killings and kidnappings in his state. The attacks by terrorists in Kaduna State have equally exposed el-rufai’s incompetence.

A few years back, a former federal lawmaker, Shehu Sani, while lamenting the killings in Southern Kaduna, said: “No part of Kaduna is spared of terrorist attacks, violence, and kidnappings. However, the killings in Southern Kaduna by terrorists are systemic. The people of that part of the state are also institutionally treated like the blacks under apartheid South Africa.”

No doubt, human lives no longer have value in beloved Nigeria, but the utmost calamity is the death of sympathy from those who claim to be our leaders. A President jets out of his country amid killings of scores of citizens by terrorists! This is preposterous. Buhari and el-rufai should be ashamed of the statistics of killings in Kaduna State. In 2022 alone, a total of 1052 people, comprising 947 men, 82 women and 22 minors were killed by terrorists in Kaduna State, while 4,227 were kidnapped. In the first quarter of this year alone, no fewer than 214 persons have already been killed as a result of attacks by terrorists, communal clashes and reprisals across the state -196 males 14 women and four minors. A total of 746 citizens were kidnapped during this same first quarter of 2023.

For me, the Atyap Chiefdom, Fulani and Hausa communities in the troubled Zangon-Kataf LG must reconvene the peace summit summoned in August 2020. Back then, leaders from these communities met and brainstormed on a lasting solution to the persistent killings in the local government. It was heartwarming seeing the Agwatyap, Dominic Gambo Yahaya, discussing with the leaders of the Hausas and Fulanis at the Yakubu Event Centre in Ungwan Wakili, Zango-Kataf LGA.

Retired Air Vice Marshal Stephen Shekari and Dr. Salim Umar, co-chaired that 2020 peace summit. A communiqué at the end of the meeting called on all residents of Atyap Chiefdom not to take laws into their hands and instead submit all grievances to the lawful authorities. The communiqué appreciated the fact that all Nigerians have the constitutional or fundamental right to move and reside anywhere in Nigeria, including Atyap Chiefdom, without any fear, molestation or harassment from anybody or any source whatsoever. There was peace for several weeks in Zangon-Kataf LG after this landmark summit. Then, suddenly, the agreement collapsed.

The diverse communities in Southern Kaduna must learn to live in peace with each other. For years, I have been advocating for this. Forgiveness, reconciliation, community healing, roundtable negotiation over land and neutrality of government/security agencies are essential. That’s how to end killings in Southern Kaduna. That 2022 peace summit should be reconvened and expanded to include all the leaders of communities in the entire Southern Kaduna. As for the Commander of Operation Safe Haven, he must ensure that his boys operate dispassionately.

Source: First published in Thisday Newspaper

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