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Harvest of death: The pains of living in Southern Kaduna




By Oluwatobi Enitan and Shehu Olayinka

KADUNA State in the northwestern part of Nigeria has been the hotbed of deadly Violence for more than 20 years. The ethno-religious crisis, mainly between the largely predominantly  Christian farmers’ community and the Hausa-Fulani Muslim herders has seen mass civilian casualties and has also displaced thousands.

Kaduna, second to Zamfara is the least insecure State in Nigeria, according to Data sourced from the Council on Foreign Relations.

A 2017 report by Chatham House estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 people have died in incidents across Kaduna State since 1980.

Also, a report by Amnesty International in 2020, stated that violence has been on and off in southern Kaduna since the aftermath of the 2011 elections and authorities have failed to end the violence or bring the perpetrators to justice. 2020 annual security report by the State government shows that 937 people died in violent attacks and mass atrocities in Kaduna State.

As the casualties being recorded shows no end in sight and people being forced to live in Internally Displaced Person Camps due to the destruction of properties caused by the endless crisis, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting visited Southern Kaduna to capture the experiences of those affected by the ongoing crisis.

Forced to flee  

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Sitting in an armless chair, the village head of Tele Community, Tanko Zango, hands clasped together in preparation for an interview in a room that has become his home.

Zango and his people are currently based in Maraban Riddo community in Chikun Local Government Area. Maraban Riddo presently plays host to the Internally Displaced people of Telele and pam Madaki communities.

Telele and Pam Madaki’s people fled their villages in Kujama Local Government Area, on January 18 2022, due to an attack by gunmen. The attack led to the death of over 20 persons, with property and farmlands reduced to rubble.

Tanko Zango
Tanko Zango

“We were sleeping when we were surrounded by the assailants who came in huge numbers and on bikes. They were armed with guns and other weapons. They came shooting sporadically and were targeting the men in my community. Anyone they saw was killed instantly.”

Narrating further, “they were going around on their bikes going after people and domestic animals; nobody was spared; whether you are old or young, so long as you are a man, you would be shot.”

The January 18, 2022 attack, according to Elisha Dbyari, a resident of a village close to Telele, Pam Madaki said to have been carried out by bandits.

He said over ten persons were killed in Telele, four in Angwan Kure, while he and other villagers were lucky to escape the gunmen.

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Ungwan Telele, is a community of Gwari people. The now deserted community was said to have accommodated the Fulani’s and other tribes in their community.

The Septuagenarian acknowledged the help received from government but lamented the pitiable condition of their village and other adjourning communities. Saying, it is the desire of his people who are predominantly farmers, to go back home, as they have little or no food to eat, because of the destruction of their farmlands and farm produce.

“To be alive today is a miracle”, said Shuaibu Adamu Babangida, a blacksmith in Kachechere community. His younger brother, who was the first to be killed in his community five years ago in a fight he said his community was not part of.

He blamed the Kataf people for taking issues with the entire communities in Zango Kataf, instead of engaging with those he said they had issues with.

“The Kataf people and the Fulani people had a misunderstanding that led to the death of someone in Gidan Karu, a Kataf village. The killing led to an attack carried out by the Kataf people against the Fulani people.

We initially left the community for Kafanchan, but returned during the planting season as we thought everything had died down, not knowing that both communities were still fighting each others.

We had nothing to do with the killings or the fighting between the Kataf and the Fulani people, but we suffered greatly for it. It affected my community and also other surrounding communities.

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I witnessed an Atyap indigene kill my younger, my mother’s younger sister and another woman who was with us when we went to look for soldiers after some vigilantes invaded our village.

I was also attacked but survived because I played dead during the attack.

Apart from my younger brothers and my mother’s younger sister, my child and another younger brother’s wife were also killed in the crisis.

 Left to fend for herself

In Dogonoma community under the Kufana District of Kajuru Local Government Area, 30-year-old Blessing Aweh, a physically challenged woman, said the March 11, 2019 attack changed her life.

Blessing Aweh
Blessing Aweh

Aweh, who now uses crutches to aid her movement, said the march 2019 incident occurred while the people in the village were sleeping just before dawn.

She said her community never thought they would become enemies with their Fulani neighbours, considering the fact that they had co-existed for years in the same community.

She said, “we started hearing sporadic gunshots. Before many could wake up, the attackers began full operation. Few escaped while others were unfortunate; in total, 73 persons were killed on that day due to that incident; the old man who was my caregiver also fell victim and was killed. Now I live alone as a cripple, I’m finding it difficult to feed with my children.”

She also said the community’s people live in fear as there has been an increase in isolated attacks, with ambushes laid on villagers who go alone to farms, local markets, or to a nearby community.

Blessing Aweh
Blessing Aweh

“Back then, we had many Fulani’s in our town, to the point that they would come to our house and I would cook for them and we would eat together laugh chat and play. At one point, we heard that the Fulani’s had killed two people and from there, everything changed as we started seeing frequent killing and kidnapping of people.

In the same community with Aweh, Ali Dauda, a farmer, lamented the constant attacks by bandits, saying that the attacks have prevented farmers in the community from going to their farms.

Ali Dauda
Ali Dauda

He said he is unable to harvest the crops because his village has become an enclave for the attackers.

He accused those he labelled Fulani bandits as the perpetrators of the attacks in his community.

They burnt our houses. I was lucky, but some currently have lost their limbs today. Some have lost their properties, and right now, we live in shelters because they burnt down our community.

“Honestly, I can’t point out a particular cause because previously, we were living fine. In our town, there is a mosque where they usually pray and we usually sit together and chat. First, it started with them absconding and later kidnapping for ransom. Subsequently, they left and started attacking the community. When they come, we run. Currently, no one even sleeps in the town. We sleep in the forest, and there are other times when we even sleep on trees. Because it’s not safe.”

‘I married a Hausa man’

Habeeba Ibrahim, an Octogenarian mother of 10 children from Kafanchan town, under Jama’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State who has lived through the crisis accused the Atyap people of being responsible for the crisis and the maiming done to her.

Kafanchan has seen quite a number of attacks, with both Zikpak and Kukum Daji badly affected. The 1987 and 2002 crises in Kafanchan led to countless death and the destruction of properties worth millions.

Habeeba who was reduced to tears during the interview paused and took a deep breath to gather herself. After wiping her tears, she removed her hijab and placed it on her leg.

The widow said she feels excruciating pains from the gunshot and cut inflicted on her.

Habeeba Ibrahim
Habeeba Ibrahim

Ibrahim, an Atyap by tribe but married to a Hausa man, now resides at an Internally Displaced Camp at the emirate community at Kafanchan.

“At times, I cry to the point I feel nothing. Every day I live through the experience of what happened to me and my granddaughter. I was peeling maize with my granddaughter when they attacked my community. I beg them to do whatever they wanted to do with me, but that they live my granddaughter alone. The lady with me was killed, while I was matcheted several times and shot at. The attack in my community was carried out by the Atyap people.

She also attributed the re-occurring violence to disagreement between the farmers and herders, noting that the inability of both parties to find common ground was premised on sentiments and grievances.

Zango Kataf IDPs camp

A new addition to the over-crowded Internally Displaced person camp in Zango Kataf Evangelical Church Winning All Widow’s training School, Lami Andrew arrived the camp after fleeing from home over what she said was due to constant attack by bandits.

It is difficult to know what was running through her mind, as she unloads her properties from the car that had just transported her and her child into the camp.

Zango Kataf IDPs camp
Zango Kataf IDPs camp

The training school now doubles as an IDPs camp, housing those displaced by the crisis. The number of persons at the camp is unknown, but The ICIR observes that the IDPs camp has more women and children, with the majority of the women being widowed by the crisis.

Lami Andrew
Lami Andrew

Lami blamed the Fulanis for the attacks that forced her to abandon her home and left her grandmother dead.

I have lost everything, she said. “They attacked my community and burnt our houses. I had to leave as there was nothing left there again. They came in the middle of the night while everyone was sleeping and killed many people. My grandmother was burnt to death in her house during an attack, and because of this crisis, my husband had an accident that left him with a broken leg.”

Sherl Pruden
Sherl Pruden

A helper at the camp, Sherl Pruden, who has lived in Southern Kaduna for nearly thirty years, said the crisis has mostly affected children.

“What those children have gone through will live with them forever. We hear gunshots every time. On a particular Saturday, we all had to run away from here. I will like to see the fear reduced and the people returned to their homes, she said.”

Miyatti Allah speaks

The Zonal Chairman of Miyatti Allah, Southern Kaduna, Abdulhamid Musa Albarka, on his part, attributed the killings to a lack of trust between the warring parties.

He said suspicion was one thing that set in and changed the narrative and issues relating to politics, which he noted had made things get out of hand.

“All I can tell say is that the same way everyone is crying because of the Fulanis is the same way the Fulanis are crying. My candid advice to our leaders, stakeholders, retired Generals and people in government is to focus attention on our issues and be aware of these lingering issues we’re facing. They should know that their inputs will go a long way in alleviating and resolving these issues.”

Kaduna State government accused of abandoning people at IDPs camp

Some indigenes who spoke with The ICIR off-camera have accused the Kaduna State Government of neglecting people living at the internally displaced person camp.

Also, the State government was accused of aiding and abetting the killers.

An effort to speak to Kaduna State Commissioner for Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, was unsuccessful over the allegation that the State was supporting those fomenting crises. He told The ICIR that he was busy due to being engaged with the Kaduna train attack and kidnapping.

We are doing our best – Kaduna Police PRO

The Kaduna State Police Public Relations Officer, Muhammad Jalige in an interview with The ICIR in reaction to claims of the Police ineffectiveness in tackling the crisis, said the Police were doing their best to maintain law and order.

ASP Muhammad Jalige
ASP Muhammad Jalige

Jalige said the Kaduna State Police command has adequately deployed police personnel. Stating that on the directives of the Inspector-General of Police, a unit of the counter-terrorism of Nigeria Police Force was deployed to upgrade the security architecture of the ravaged areas.

He also enjoined citizens to collaborate with the Police by providing useful intelligence, which he said would go a long way in helping in tackling the menace of herders and farmers clashes and warning citizens against taking laws into their hands.

The ICIR further asked Jalige to provide numbers of those arrested and being prosecuted in connection to the killings and destruction in Southern Kaduna.  Jalige who could not ascertain the number of suspects said an investigation was ongoing with some already charged to court.

What Data says about Southern Kaduna

Southern Kaduna is one of the most conflict-prone attacks in Nigeria. According to Data from Nigeria Security Tracker, produced by the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which monitors levels of Violence by collating local media reports showed that between 2019 and 2020 in Chikun Local Government Area, 60 attacks were recorded, which left 169 persons dead, 183 were victims of kidnapping, 104 bandits killed and 2 deaths of security officers.

In Jema’a Local Government Area, between 2019 and 2020, six attacks were recorded, with 19 deaths and three kidnapped victims. While within the period under review, in Kajuru Local Government Area, which has been a flashpoint saw 27 attacks were recorded, 392 deaths, 27 kidnap victims, 13 bandits killed and one death of a security operative.

In Zango Kataf Local Government Area, 13 attacks were recorded between 2019 and 2020 and 80 persons’ lives were lost.

Banditry, killing and Kidnapping increasing in Kaduna

A report by the State government released in February 2022, revealed that 1,192 persons were killed by bandits and other violent groups in the State, according to figures compiled and released by the State’s ministry of internal security and home affairs.

Zangon Kataf LGA in the southern part of Kaduna appeared to be the most troubled area in the state as 186 persons were killed, followed by Birnin Gwari LGA with 179 fatalities; Giwa LGA recorded 173 deaths and Chikun LGA had 160.

The State also saw an increase in kidnapping and destruction of properties in 2021.

According to the records released by the State government, casualties show that 1,038 men, 104 women, and 50 minors resulted from banditry, violent attacks, reprisals, and communal clashes.

The annual security report shows a 27.21 per cent increase in deaths at 1,192, compared to 2020 figures which showed that 937 people died in violent attacks and mass atrocities in Kaduna State.

A total of 3,348 victims were also said to have been kidnapped, 13,788 animals rustled, 891 people injured and 45 victims reported to have been raped in 2021.

In the first quarter of 2022, a joint report by the Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities and the Joint Action Civil Society Committee under the aegis of Nigeria Mourns revealed that in Southern Kaduna, within the three months under review, recorded over 100 deaths following repeated attacks on several communities in the area.

Author profile

Olayinka works with The ICIR as the Social Media Manager, Reporter and Fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via oshehu@icirnigeria.org. You can as well follow him on Twitter via @ShehuOlayinka1

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