Kajuru killings: Survivors now live in forest
For a while, peace has eluded Kajuru, in Kaduna State, following spate of killings. In this report, MUHAMMAD SABIU writes about government’s efforts to restore peace and how many of the survivors had relocated to the forest out of fear.
If there is a bloody crisis that has generated so many controversies or has been politicised, then the Kajuru killings would suffice. The first report of the killings came to the fore in February. That was when the world heard the killings of 66 Fulani people in eight communities as well as the killings of eight Adara people of Kajuru in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Even when the death toll increased to over a hundred in less than two months, the Kajuru killings have continued to attract reactions either for or against the number of the dead
Many have advanced reasons for the crisis. The first set of aggrieved people made their grievances known when on the eve of the aborted presidential election on February 15, 2019, the Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai released a press statement through his media aide, Samuel Aruwan, informing the world that 66 Fulani people were killed in seven communities in Kajuru.
Immediately after the statement, notable Nigerians, including the public, began to ask questions. One of the questions raised was why the traditional media was unaware of the killings. Why should the government and not security agencies disclose the attack? When did the killings take place? Who were the perpetrators of this heinous crime? What was the motive of the governor? What does he intend to achieve? Why is it that only one side of the story was heard?
One of those who attacked the governor was a human rights activist, Professor Chidi Odinkalu while appearing on Channels TV. Odinkalu not only debunked el Rufai’s claim, he went further to call him a liar. He challenged the governor to show Nigerians evidence(s) of where the corpses of the Fulanis were buried or deposited.
Indeed, after Odinkalu’s TV appearance, a cross section of Nigerians also denied the governor’s claim, insisting the governor goofed. They, also like others, asked the governor the rationale behind disclosing a piece of information of that magnitude just on the eve of a national election.
The National Emergency and Management Agency (NEMA) denied the governor’s figure admitting there was an attack five days earlier and 11 people were reported dead. The Christian Association of Nigerian (CAN) was also on the governor’s neck, accusing him of trying to instigate violence in the state during the election. This, they said, so he would have a basis to cancel the election.
However, the governor in company of the then commissioner of police, Ahmed Abdulrahaman and other security agencies went to Kajuru to appeal to the Fulanis and Adara people who were living together for centuries to sheath their swords.
When the governor and security chiefs were going round to assess the level of damage during the attack, they were faced with many decomposed bodies scattered all over the ground.
This revelation made el-Rufai respond to the earlier claim by Professor Odinkalu and his co-travellers that such attacks never took place. He descended heavily on them by reminding them to mind their business as they lacked the mandate to speak for the state. He argued that as chief security officer of the state, it would be impossible to play politics with human lives.
The following week, when the governor told the State House correspondents that the death toll had increased to 130, there was another around of condemnation from the public particularly the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU).
SOKAPU President, Solomon Musa challenged Governor El-Rufai to justify his 130 casualty figure claim, by exhuming the victims’ bodies to show the world.
Musa went further to argue that in the history of several other crises in Southern Kaduna, Governor El-Rufai had never come out to disclose figures of casualties and ethnic nationalities of the victims, except now.
“Now, I don’t want to dwell on the issue of whether 66 or 130 people were killed or not, because every human life is sacred, and the life of a Fulani man is as precious as the life of an Adara person; the life of a Muslim is as precious as the life of a Christian. So, it is not about number,” he said.
However, a coalition of fulani group insisted that 131 Fulanis were killed during the attacks. In a press conference in Kaduna, the leader of the group, Saleh Alhassan disclosed that the wanton killings of Fulani were premeditated and carried out with the sole intention to send them packing from a place where they had been living for centuries.
According to him, their group have in its kitty all the names of those killed, saying, the governor was right in the figure. Commenting further, the group called on the Federal Government or state government to constitute a judicial committee of inquiry in order to get to the root of the crisis.
Just as the people of the area were coming to terms with reality, another attack left 29 people including a policeman dead. The attack on Karamai, just like the others, left several others seriously injured.
From February to date, series of attacks have left hundreds of people dead. Both the Adara and Fulani sides of the conflict have suffered irreparable losses. An official of the State Emergency Management Agency, who preferred anonymity, revealed that an estimated 12,000 refugees are now scattered in Sabon Tasha, Mararaba Kajuru, Iburu and Kasuwar Magani while over ten villages were destroyed. Some of the destroyed villages were Unguwar Barde, Kamai, Inkirimi, Dogon Noma, Maro villages, Kasuwar Magani, Sabon Sara ,Kajuru and Buda.
But findings by the Nigerian Tribune reveal that some victims of these attacks are now living in the forest instead of the camps designated for internally displayed persons (IDPs) set up by the state government. This latest discovery points to a new dimension to the crisis which has refused to end in spite of concerted efforts put on by the security agencies and government.
One of such victims is 70-year-old Ayuba Maina. He told Nigerian Tribune that he was one of the few survivors that escaped that night when their village was attacked.
According to him, he left his village in Kajuru to settle in the forest of Laduga, close to some neighbouring communities. Maina hinted that he was not alone in the forest, adding that others have relocated with him.
“I now live in this forest with my wife and children,” he said. When asked how he would weather the rainy season, he said, “I’m a Fulani man; we will survive the odds,” he said.
Another survivor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Nigerian Tribune that he had left where he earlier lived after the repeated attacks on his community. According to him, “Since our village (Maro) was attacked, I relocated to the forest.”
He told Nigerian Tribune that he was not comfortable with the condition of the IDPs in their camps. “There are many people in the camps and I hate to be trapped there. I’m a private person who wants to live my life. I hate crowd. I really don’t know when I will return home. The forest is now my home,” he said.
Piqued by the incessant killings in the area, a 24-hour curfew was imposed on the troubled area of Kajuru including some neighbouring settlement of Kasuwar Magaji. Explaining the rationale behind the curfew, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Media and Publicity disclosed in a statement that it was due to the attitude of some of the youths in the area who wanted to foment trouble in spite of the peace process going on in the area.
It was learnt that the state government had set up the Truth and Reconciliation Committee under the leadership of a former commissioner, Mr Patrick Magari to identify the causes of the incessant crises in the area and those behind such crises as well as recommend ways towards finding a permanent peace in the area.
The onus for a peaceful coexistence between the two warring communities now falls on the shoulders of this committee. How they will proffer solutions to the lingering crisis remains to be seen in the next couple of weeks.