The Southern Kaduna People Union, SOKAPU, yesterday, raised the alarm over deliberate plans to exterminate the ethnic group and called on the United Nations, the African Union, and others to set up a peace enforcement operation base in the area to checkmate incessant attacks and killings in the area.
SOKAPU also appealed to Amnesty International, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, and other world bodies to investigate the pogrom, stressing that there was an alleged plan to commit genocide to completely eliminate them from existence. The union which said it no longer has faith in the government and the armed forces, alleged there was a conspiracy of silence even as their kith and kin were killed and their homes destroyed with impunity.
At a briefing in Kaduna, SOKAPU President, Mr. Awemi Dio Maisamari, said they were constrained to address the world on the pressing issue of the security situation affecting their people in Southern Kaduna. He said: “You are all witnesses to the wanton cruelty being visited on our communities by bands of murderous armed herdsmen in the recent past, for which no single arrest has been made.
“Last Sunday, April 16, 2023, the peaceful, farming Runji village (Sankwab) in Atyap land, Zangon Kataf LGA in Southern Kaduna, was invaded by marauding armed herdsmen around 1.00 a.m., in which they carried out horrific acts of murder, arson, and theft. After operating for hours, brave youths of the town, joined by others from neighbouring villages, teamed up and faced the invaders, who then retreated into the night.
By daybreak, 42 houses were burned, with 17 women and children roasted beyond recognition.
“Twelve corpses with machete cuts and bullet shots were picked up in and around the village. Later in the day, four people who were rushed to hospitals died of their wounds, bringing the total death toll to 33, including those still in hospitals. The victims were buried in a mass grave on the eastern edge of the village.
Southern Kaduna is dotted with numerous mass graves of such victims. As usual, the Kaduna State Government and the Federal Government have not visited the place nor sent any form of assistance to the scores that have been rendered homeless.
“Recall that on March 16, 2023, invading armed herdsmen attacked homes in Langson, also in Atyap land, using machetes and knives, and killed ten natives around 9.00 p.m. Also, on March 13, 2023, armed herdsmen killed eight people in Atakjeh, close to the palace of the traditional ruler of Atyap land.
On March 12, in a shocking mass murder, armed herdsmen attacked Unguwan Wakili, less than 800 metres from a military checkpoint, and killed 17 people, mostly women and children. Unguwan Wakili is in Atyap land, about two kilometres from Zangon Kataf, a semi-urban area notorious for harboring armed herdsmen.
“In all, within one month, 68 persons have been killed in Atyap land, leaving 15 with life threatening injuries. These attacks have created streams of displaced persons fleeing for safety. In the past six years, about 63 Atyap communities have been attacked; hundreds of homes have been burned, and hundreds of natives have been killed by pillaging armed herdsmen. Not a single Fulani is facing prosecution for these crimes.
Ironically, scores of Atyap leaders have been arrested and put in jail over trumped up charges in the violence of which they are the victims. So far, there has been an apparent failure or refusal by the Kaduna State government under Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to apprehend and prosecute the killers.
“Again, to show that the Fulani militias have the backing of the Kaduna State government, anytime a Fulani cow gets lost or any Fulani is harmed by suspected Southern natives, the entire area where the incident is suspected to have happened is raided by combat happy security personnel. This usually culminates in youths and community leaders being taken to police detention or prison custody.
Apart from the deadly invasions, the daily kidnapping of persons and unscheduled blocking of highways by terrorists in Southern Kaduna has not stopped. Most of these now go unreported because of their frequency and the remoteness of their locations. Now, only mass abductions or cases involving notable individuals are reported.
“In one such recent reported case on April 4, 2023, armed terrorists invaded Government Secondary School Awon, Kachia LGA in Southern Kaduna, and kidnapped 10 students in broad daylight, eight of them schoolgirls. Instead of pursuing and apprehending the terrorists, all the Kaduna State government does is announce and document the occurrence of such crimes carried out just to wait for the next one. After 15 harrowing days in the jungle in the hands of their captors, we have been informed that the girls have managed to escape and are now in the custody of the government.
We are indeed happy about this development, and we praise God for his grace. We salute the valour and courage of our children. We hope the Kaduna state government will give them all necessary assistance and rehabilitation before releasing them into the loving arms of their families.
“As it stands now, no fewer than 245 Southern Kaduna communities have been sacked by these armed herdsmen in collaboration with terrorists. If the size of these captured areas is added to Birnin Gwari and adjoining areas, these outlaws have taken around 6000 square kilometres of Kaduna State land, which is bigger than the size of Imo State. These are the ungoverned spaces where most kidnapped victims are kept and ransome taken to southern Kaduna, which is 26,000 sq. km. in size. With a few weeks left in this administration, the attacks only seem to be stepping up. And given the fact that the same government wants to succeed itself at both the state and federal levels, we have great doubts if the genocide, kidnapping, displacement, and occupation will abate.
“On these notes, we are seriously concerned about the curious silence of Amnesty International on the pogrom going on in southern Kaduna. We are also very sad about the silence of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, the Africa Union, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations over the unrelenting pogrom in southern Kaduna.
“SOKAPU is calling on these continental and global bodies to send independent investigation teams to Southern Kaduna to debunk or confirm our claims of ethnic cleansing there. Before then, we advocated for a UN or AU Peace Enforcement Operations Base in Southern Kaduna. These practicalities demonstrate that the world is interested in our collective survival as minority ethnic groups.” It must not abandon us to be hounded by well funded and well-armed herdsmen who are being encouraged and protected by their powerful kinsmen and collaborators in and outside Nigeria.”
(Courtesy, excluding headline, Vanguard)