Ethnic Fulani associations in Kaduna State’s highly troubled Kajuru Local Government at the weekend revealed the identities of 132 persons that were killed by suspected gunmen from the neighbouring Adara community about two weeks ago. Groups that issued the list include Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani Socio-Cultural Association, Gan Allah Fulani Development Association (GAFDAN), Mogbul Fulde Development Association (MOFDA) and Fulbe Global Development Initiative. The list showed that many members of the same families, men, women, children and the aged were killed in the gruesome mayhem that occurred between Sunday, February 10 and Tuesday, February 12 in the remote area.
The latest killings in Kajuru LGA initially caused confusion and national tension when some NGOs claimed that it was a lie designed to reap political advantage on the eve of elections earlier scheduled for February 16, before they were postponed. It all began on Friday, February 15 when Kaduna State Governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufa’i told a visiting team of election monitors that 66 people were killed in 11 remote villages of Kajuru LGA. Among the victims, he said, were 22 children and four women. An NGO, Violent Incidents and Election Atrocity Fusion Centre (VIAFUC) for #NigeriaDecides2019 quickly reacted to the governor’s statement and said it “contacted residents and community leaders of Kajuru” and “trawled all possible sources and sent in two additional fact finders to verify these claims and concluded that sadly, the alleged attack and killings claimed by the Governor did not occur.” Adara community association and the state branch of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, also joined in denying the killings.
The top security bosses in Kaduna State including the Police Commissioner, General Officer Commanding the Army’s One Infantry Division, Air Officer Commanding the Airforce and State Director of State Services [DSS] soon confirmed that it happened. Indeed, El-Rufa’i broke the news because he received reports from all these agencies that morning after their officers and men had combed the area, recovered the initial 66 bodies and rescued scores of wounded persons, whom they took to hospitals in Kaduna. The killings took place at Ruga Bahago, Ruga Daku, Ruga Ori, Ruga Haruna, Ruga Yukka Abubakar, Ruga Duni Kadiri, Ruga Shewuka and Ruga Shuaibu Yau, all pastoral hamlets. Daily Trust’s reporters who managed to visit the area and speak to victims, residents and security officials also confirmed that indeed, a most gruesome massacre took place.
It was reported early that hundreds of persons were still unaccounted for, so it was no surprise that over the next week, the casualty figure kept rising as more bodies were found. Speaking at the State House, Abuja last Tuesday, El-Rufa’i said the figure had risen to 133. The state police commissioner initially caused a row when he refused to confirm the figure, saying investigation was still on-going. The list of the dead issued by the Fulani groups have proved however that the governor’s figures were not off the mark. If anything, they are likely to rise even further.
Who was it that raided villages over two days and killed so many people, including women, children and the aged? Police have said they made arrests and would soon charge the culprits to court. However, it is an open secret that ethnic Adara youths were thought to be responsible for the genocidal killings. From all indications, they did so as “reprisal” for an attack on Sunday, February 10 at Unguwar Barde in which 11 people, all ethnic Adaras, were killed. They suspect ethnic Fulani militias of carrying out those killings.
To begin with, we condemn in the strongest terms the despicable action of the so-called Violent Incidents and Election Atrocity Fusion Centre (VIAFUC) for rushing to trivialise and politicise a national security tragedy by denying that killings took place in Kajuru. They rushed to this judgement without knowing that soldiers and policemen had been combing the bushes for three days, recovering corpses and burying them in mass graves. Leaders of VIAFUC should bury their heads in shame and should never again bring their ill-motivated politics to bear in security matters. The same applies to the other groups that abetted them. Their despicable attempt to promote a ready-made narrative that only one section of the community ever perpetrates atrocities is narrow-minded, ahistorical, anti-intellectual and dangerous to national peace and cohesion. The fact that the Kaduna governor has a reputation as a gadfly does not mean that anyone should rush to call him a liar on the basis of futile phone calls to some people who were far removed from the crime scene.
That said, we urge the Kaduna State government, security agencies, Federal Government and community leaders to take all deliberate steps to break Kajuru Local Government’s vicious circle of killings, reprisal attacks and counter reprisal attacks. Kajuru is not the only multi-ethnic place in Nigeria but it has acquired a reputation for intolerance and senseless mass murder over land, crop, grazing and other local issues. If not because the state government and security agencies acted proactively, the senseless killings in Kajuru would again have spilled over into other parts of Kaduna State and caused more losses of lives and property.
The right place to begin is to speedily apprehend all those who carried out the killings at Unguwar Barde and in all the Fulani villages. Failure to apprehend and severely punish perpetrators of previous killings is precisely what led to this latest orgy of murder. We must also add, unless the vicious circle is broken, the pastoralists would almost certainly launch another reprisal attack, sometimes years from now, leading to more spilling of blood. We therefore urge the Kaduna State Government and all community leaders to come together, hand over the culprits for punishment and sit together in a peace summit to resolve all the outstanding issues. Kajuru has spilled too much blood. We must end the vicious circle without further delay.