The Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to put an end to the ongoing deadly attacks committed by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Southern Kaduna.
Nigeria’s Middle Belt, which includes Kaduna, Nasarawa, Taraba, Benue & other states, is the scene of attacks on Christian farmers (often called indigenes) by mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani herdsmen.
‘It has become imperative for the security forces “to act fast to put a stop to these callous acts” with regards to the frequency of the attacks in Southern Kaduna and other parts of the country by suspected herdsmen’, urged the NHRC on 28 December.
The attacks, which have claimed hundreds of lives, have affected mainly the ‘central’ States of Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Benue but also the more ‘northern’ State of Kaduna. Southern Kaduna has been particularly targeted, with attacks occurring almost on a weekly, or even daily basis recently. The violence reached a peak over Christmas, prompting local authorities to declare a 24 hours curfew from 22 December in three Local Government Areas: Jema’a, Kaura and Sanga.
The NHRC said “Time has come for the government and security agencies to ensure effective protection of lives and properties of defenceless Nigerians, who are victims of incessant attacks by suspected herdsmen.’’
Southern Kaduna, made up of eight Local Government Areas (LGAs) - Sanga, Jema’a, Kaura, Jaba, Zangon Kataf, Kagarko, Kachia and Kauru - is predominantly Christian; the worst hit LGAs are Jema’a, Kaura, Sanga and Kauru.
Church groups in northern Nigeria have condemned the killings, which they say are aimed at wiping out the Christian presence in the region.
Data from the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan (Kaduna’s 4th city, in Jem’aa LGA) shows 808 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the crisis in 2013. 57 others have been injured in attacks on 53 villages.
The Diocese says dozens of properties have been destroyed including 16 Churches, 1,422 houses, 19 shops, 1 primary school and 5 cars. A conservative estimate of farmlands destroyed and food stuff burnt is estimated at 5.5 billion Naira (about $17,5 million or £14,2 million).
On 10 December, the Catholic bishops of Kaduna had denounced the ongoing ‘bloodshed’ in Southern Kaduna.
‘‘In the last weeks and months, we have become victims of systematic attacks orchestrated by another version of Boko Haram, who also go by the name ‘Fulani Herdsmen’.
‘‘This Militia, of the Fulani extraction, is bent on pursuing an agenda that is aimed at subjugating the Southern Kaduna People, disintegrating the country, weakening the Gospel and grounding completely the social and economic life of our people’’.
“Southern Kaduna is no stranger to violence, perpetrated against it by jihadists”, recalled the Bishops. They say the first known recorded violence of a large scale dates back to 1987 “when a group of Muslim youths unleashed violence on Christians during a ‘Revival meeting’ organized by the Christian students of the College of Education, Kafanchan. The charge was that a pastor was quoting from the Bible and the Quran to press home his point….
“The events of the past weeks and months…further confirm that there is a hidden agenda targeted at the Christian majority of Southern Kaduna. This jihad is well-funded, well-planned and executed by agents of destabilization”.
The clerics also denounced government’s ‘biases’ in handling the crisis.
‘‘If anything, government has shown outright partisanship in favor of the herdsmen to the disappointment of the majority Southern Kaduna indigenes and Christians’’.
They also criticised the inertia of the security forces: ‘‘In most of these attacks, the military stands aloof and watches while our people are being massacred. The viciousness of these self-styled jihadists sends shivers into the spines of our traumatized people.
‘‘In the Godogodo and Pasakori attacks for example, the military merely watched and supervised the burning of our homes. When the youth mobilized to repel the attackers, the soldiers deliberately blocked them from entering the town’’.
The Bishops point also to the level of sophistication of weapons, including AK 47s, used by the militiamen.
CAN declares 8 January day of national mourning
The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the largest umbrella group of Christians, has declared 8 January as a national day of mourning, including for the Nigerian diaspora. On 30 December, Rev. Dr. Samson Ayokunle said:
‘‘We are to pray fervently for our southern Kaduna brothers and sisters who are victims of these wanton killings…Though the Church in Nigeria since 2009 has been subjected to a systemic genocide and persecution through… Islamic fundamentalists Boko Haram, leading to the killing of thousands of Christians and the destruction of hundreds of churches and over 50,000 houses, the current unprecedented onslaught against Christians in southern Kaduna by Islamic fundamentalists disguising as Fulani herdsmen under the watch of the Kaduna state Governor and the President has reached an alarming stage."
Courtesy: World Watch Monitor
Publication date: January 5, 2017