OPINION: Halting Southern Kaduna KillingsArticles/Opinion, Featured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News Tuesday, January 24th, 2017
(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – A friend recently told me that he had stopped monitoring news. When I asked him why, he simply said; over the years, there is nothing good that you hear in the news apart from negative stories. He affirmed that because of this, he had concluded that tracking news reportage was nothing but a futile exercise and another way of adding more problems to one’s burden. Honestly speaking, I think he was right in his line of argument, but the problem is, should we then throw the baby with the bathe water?
As I was ruminating over the matter, the continued extra-judicial killings going on in Southern Kaduna, Kaduna State came to the fore and this quickly reminds me that something should be done to save lives, restore normalcy and stop the senseless bloodletting. The people of Southern Kaduna are generally known to be Christians, farmers and major producers of agricultural resources not only for Kaduna market but for other parts of the country.
The criminality pervading the Southern Kaduna assumed a frightening dimension when suspected Fulani herdsmen from neighbouring African countries, who had returned to avenge attacks on their relatives and livestock, invaded the area and resort into killing of several local residents, maiming, injuring many and laying waste many communities alongside their farmlands such as Gogogodo community in Jema’a local council as well as Kobin village, Sanga local government. The situation became so severe that the state government had to impose curfew on the Zangon Kataf, Kaura and Jema’a councils, an action that has been found to have little effect as the well-armed herdsmen were found to have continued attacking the communities with minimal resistance by law enforcement agents. On the contrary, the swift reaction on the part of the government was noticed when soldiers were deployed when cattle rustlers and bandits were either being killed or arrested. At the end, their cows in their hundreds were saved and protected.
The trend, pattern and dimension of the current conflict suggest that the impasse could have been precipitated by the purported plans towards forceful Islamisation, dominance, control, conquest and exercise of power over the Christian communities. That is why it is generally believed that the Southern Kaduna massacres are a clear manifestation of the struggle to resist unlawful imposition, and perhaps, the killings could be described as sectarian elimination. According to the state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, since 1980, between 10,000 and 20,000 people have been killed in the state during crisis while the National Emergency Management Agency disclosed that over 200 persons have also lost their lives in the conflict even though the Catholic Church puts the figure at over 800!
Because of the way and manner the issue has been handled so far, many critics have blamed both the federal and state governments for not doing enough to curb the crisis while accusing fingers were specifically being pointed at the el-Rufai administration for appearing to be biased in the poor management of the conflict. Therefore, the governor’s claim that the Niger Delta militants were the culprits behind the killings does not appear convincing and logical enough to exonerate the herdsmen that are notorious for such dastardly acts.
To avert further destruction of lives and property, there is the need for the government to take a more decisive action to curtail the excesses of the herdsmen. Failure to do this could give the impression that the government is incapable of providing adequate security for the citizenry; which is a constitutional obligation. To begin with, el-Rufai should speak up. He had earlier claimed that Nigerians would be shocked by the calibre of perpetrators his government would arrest and prosecute for their culpability in current violence. He should not delay any further by revealing the identities of such persons. He should summon the political will by fishing-out the perpetrators as well as their sponsors and punished within the ambit of the law.
The attitude of our security agents in periods like these is disheartening. Those that are supposed to be above board are known to be divided along ethnic and religious lines. Despite the curfew imposed in the affected areas and the presence of the security personnel, the gunmen have continued to inflict harm on innocent persons by attacking the villages. This should be discouraged. Security officers can be said to have failed to carry out their statutory duties by taking sides in the conflict, except we are saying that the gunmen are better equipped and tactical than our armed forces! Security agencies should be allowed to do their work by protecting the nation and be prevented from undue influence bordering on politics, ethnicity, nepotism and corruption. The Southern Kaduna killings would not have degenerated to this critical level, if security agents had been allowed to professionally carry out their duties. Emphasis should now be focused more on intelligence gathering to proactively burst further attacks while constant patrol of the affected areas should be sustained.
Another way out of the imbroglio is the need to implement reports of previous bodies that were put in place to unravel the causes of similar conflicts and proffer solutions. Unfortunately, governments at all levels in Nigeria are known to be hasty in constituting panels, tribunals and committees without really executing findings emanating from such exercises. What this shows is that, we are not truly ready to learn from our mistakes and do things differently despite the huge resources being channeled into putting in place such administrative bodies. For instance, the panel put in place on the Godogodo violence as well as the 2014 General Martins Agwai-led inquiry have failed to achieve their set objectives.
Over the years, Fulani herdsmen have assumed the new face of terrorism in the country, having moved from carrying mere bows and arrows. Their deadly arsenal is now made up of sophisticated weapons, which they deploy against host communities. The herdsmen often become a threat to any community that they enter without being invited to graze animals. In the process, they destroy the farmers’ agricultural crops and bring misery on the people. They often kill and maim anyone who dared to confront their audacity while women of the host communities are raped and humiliated.
Under the Nigerian law, no group or persons is granted an exclusive right to bear arms illegally. What makes the Fulani herdsmen special and above the law? The way and manner that the Fulani herdsmen go about their illegality as the security men watch without any apprehension make many observers to suggest that government could be sympathetic to the cause of the herdsmen. This is not acceptable. Fulani herdsmen should surrender their arms and embrace peace. But if they continue to foment trouble, they should be disarmed in severely punished. On a final note, President Muhammadu Buhari should ensure that the military and the police act swiftly by identifying the exact areas of the attacks in the Southern Kaduna to end the arbitrary killings and also ensure that real victims are adequately compensated without further delay.
Kupoluyi writes from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), firstname.lastname@example.org,@AdewaleKupoluyi
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