Thursday, February 22, 2024

42 years after: Southern Kaduna crisis lingers as criminal elements change tactics

  • Security experts, stakeholders suggest fresh panacea

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

For about 42 years, the sanctity of human life has been at its lowest ebb in Southern Kaduna. No thanks to the age-long crisis that has cut short thousands of lives, displaced hundreds of others while properties, livestock and farmlands have been destroyed.

Since 1981 when a land dispute between the Hausa traders and residents of Adara in Kachia Local Government Area led to violent clashes that destroyed over 100 homes, the region has known no peace and there seems to be no end in sight to the humanitarian crisis that has now been tied with issues of religion and ethnic tension, Fulani herdsmen destructions and banditry.

Specifically, land, religious supremacy, hate speech, and an enduring history of distrust between the farming community and the herders are some of the major causes of the crisis that has defied several peace efforts by the Federal and the Kaduna State Governments, stakeholders and individuals. Even military efforts in form of troops deployed to the region has failed to restore lasting peace as human lives are wasted almost on a daily basis.

Findings by The Point revealed that criminal elements have changed tactics of attacks in the region. It has become an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth between those who regard themselves as aboriginal indigenes of the Southern Kaduna and those described as settlers. Most of these settlers are said to be Hausa/Fulani herdsmen. Sources said that part of the new trend is that cows are being poisoned by some unscrupulous elements and days after that, there is a reprisal attack in the form of killings and burning of houses and properties of locals.

It was further gathered that the wanton killings are perpetrated by criminal elements on both sides and not necessarily an ethnic cleansing as speculated in some quarters. Sources claimed that indigenous farming communities and Hausa/Fulani pastoralists often engaged in targeted attacks on one another, thus creating a cycle of reprisals. Some insiders attributed the crisis to indigenes/settlers dichotomy and the struggle for resource control in the region. While the Hausa/Fulani community would not accept that they are not indigenous in where they have lived for centuries, the indigenous group continues to describe the Hausa/Fulani as settlers, a development that has been exacerbating the crisis.

“Imagine a situation where village heads are appointed and posted from people who we know are not truly indigenes and they want us to take that?” President, Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, Dio Maishamari,lamented.

SECURITY EXPERTS, STAKEHOLDERS SUGGEST FRESH PANACEA
Meanwhile, as successive governments, military and civilians failed to bring peace to Southern Kaduna, critical stakeholders and security experts are going back to the drawing board to fashion out fresh solutions to the carnage. They wondered why various commission of inquiries, panels of investigation and conflict resolution committees set up over the years to make policy recommendations to end the killings had not yielded any results.

Maishamari believes that “committees are manipulated in order to sweep cases under the carpet.” These stakeholders called on the Federal and State Governments to quickly address the ethnic, religious and political issues that had dotted the crisis before tackling the security aspect of it. They opined that it wasalways difficult for insecurity to abate once it had taken ethnic, religious and political dimensions. David Okoror, Chief Security Strategist, Institute of Security and Governance Studies, while explaining why there had not been solution in sight, noted that governments needed to ensure justice for those who had been unjustly treated in the killings and attacks.

He said, “I think we should understand that the problem in Southern Kaduna is a reflection of what is happening in Kaduna and other parts of Nigeria. It is a situation where
you find out that it is religion mixed with politics. When insecurity is being mixed with ethnicity, religion and politics, it becomes difficult to really find a solution to the problem.

I think broadly speaking, whether in Kaduna, whether in Plateau or Benue, the problem is around the use of agricultural land, the indigenes feeling that those whom we call settlers are trying to rule over them forcefully and the third is the activity of Hausa/Fulani Jihadist versus Christian militancy.

“Government needs to address the ethnic, religious and political issues before you can talk about addressing the security issue. You would find out that years down the road, actions that have been taken by government have been inadequate. People think that what you need to do is to deploy more security, but on issues like this, you cannot address the issue that has religious dimension, ethnic dimension with just deployment of military and other security outfits. So, what you see about the repeat in killings is a cycle that has been on for a long time and don’t seem to end soon except new strategies are adopted to address them.”

One of the new strategies that would drive a change of narratives in the troubled region, according to Okoror, is justice. He said, “There are issues of justice; you can’t have progress without justice, you can’t have peace without justice. We need to recognise that there are people’s rights and the issues of readily available weapons that criminals are having. We need to look into new ways of rearing our cattle and we need to bring in technology. Unfortunately, some people still believe that they just continue to practise their farming or herding their cows the way they are used to.

“We need to have leaders that are not going to play politics with security. We need to rejig security architecture. Indigenes are afraid that their lands were to be taken away from them. People don’t trust government and their elements. The trust is not there and any policy the government is bringing will be shortlived.”

The Executive Vice Chairman, Kaduna State Peace Commission, Dr Saleh Momale, revealed that some prominent individuals had been exploiting the crisis for their selfish interests. He said, “I think the Southern Kaduna region in the past has suffered significantly religious and ethnic divisions. It has triggered a lot of reactions and violence in many parts of the state. What we are trying to focus on now is that, can we be able to engage the citizens of this state and create a new vision, perspectives, narratives that will see everybody living within Kaduna as citizens of Nigeria who have the rights to live in every part of the country to access resources, to pursue their desires without infringing on the rights of others and without others infringing on their own constitutional rights? I think these are the fundamental issues. With these reasons, you will see that the Kaduna State Government has pursued the citizens agenda to see every Nigerian, wherever he is, once you are resident within the territory of Kaduna State, we don’t want to distinguish you as an indigene or a settler.

“So, what we are doing now is to bring in the young people, intellectuals, religious leaders, and see if we can be able to come together and create a new narrative that will override all these narratives of ethnic division, religious division, ethnic conflict and see ourselves as citizens that must work together to address and find a way of neutralising the enormous potentials that exist within this region with the collective development of all society. Until we arrive at this consensus, we will continue to experience this crisis.”

Relatedly, the spokesperson for the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, Luka Binniyat, has expressed concerns that there is no evidence that any culprit has been arrested and prosecuted since the crisis worsened in 2016.

“Despite over 200 invasions of communities of Southern Kaduna, in which thousands of lives were wasted and no less than 245 communities displaced, all as a result of herdsmen and bandits’ attacks, no form of assistance has been rendered to survivors by the Kaduna State Government,” he alleged.

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