© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Inside The Killing Fields Of Southern Kaduna – Part 1
The killings in Southern Kaduna continue relentlessly, as the state and security agencies appear helpless in tackling the crisis
By Augustine Agbo
With his failure to venture into the bush to reclaim the body of his brother who was allegedly killed by rampaging Fulani herdsmen in October, Stephen Musa, 45, a farmer and father of five believed that vultures and flesh eating animals would have feasted on his corpse.
The Dogon Fili resident in Jema’a local government area of Kaduna State is one of the few villagers risking their lives to stay in the half empty community ravaged by alleged Fulani warriors.
While he lamented how the unbearable reality brought by the murder of his brother and an addition of 11 more persons to the family, including his late brother’s widow and 4 children, Musa knows that he is in for a hard life with little food, no access to farmlands and his children unable to go to school.
He still hopes that one day when things cool down he would be able to search the bushes, recover his brother’s remains and give him a proper burial.
Not too far from Dogon Fili, in Godogodo, a small Fulani settlement in Jema’a local government area, Ibrahim Fodio, a middle aged Fulani man who combines both herding and farming lamented that he had not dared venture into his community since October 24, 2016 after the it was attacked by his local neighbours, who killed about 30 persons, injured 16 others and burnt down hundreds of houses.
The swift reprisal attacks on Fulanis in the community forced many ‘non-natives’ to hurriedly vacate the agrarian town to escape death as several properties belonging to them were consumed in the anger of revenge.
Fodio now survives on a few handouts in the Hausa/Fulani controlled parts of Kafanchan where the Jema’s Emirate Council is headquartered.
But Fodio and Musa are even lucky to be alive to recount tales of woe. Many people have been killed and silenced forever in the unending clashes between local people and Fulani herdsmen in southern Kaduna.
The clashes which started as a quarrel between two individuals, has now spiraled into a huge problem that threatens security in the entire state and beyond
Hundreds of Nigerians have died since 2009 after the first known clash was reported in Chawai Chieftdom in Kauru council area by a group of Fulani gunmen apparently to avenge the killing of their kinsmen in neighbouring Plateau State.
By one estimation, Southern Kaduna has been attacked about 41 times between 2009 and May 1, 2016 with hundreds of deaths and thousands of property destroyed.
The number has risen to an alarming level with the reported escalated attacks after the May 26 incidents in Godogodo, which have sparked series of revenge attacks.
The most recent attacks occurred on December 24 and 25 in Goska, Kaninkon Kingdom, also in Jema’a council area despite a 24-hour curfew imposed on the local government and two others – Zango – Kataf and Kaura.
Six persons were believed killed in that attack allegedly carried out by Fulani herdsmen in retaliation for an earlier one on its people.
The killings and reprisal attacks from by both the farmers and Fulani herdsmen have become Nigeria’s silent war of human carnage fanned by the contest of supremacy over ownership of land, ‘right of passage’ of cattle in the rich agricultural plains of Southern Kaduna.
When our reporter visited the affected communities weeks ago but before the most recent attacks, he met a scene of carnage with many houses burnt and entire communities wiped out. Residents had fled their homes and had not ventured to return. Those who remained for some reason dared not venture out.
Our reporter was told that he was the first journalist to independently venture into the crisis zone without official security backing.
In Kafanchan, headquarters of Jema’a local government area and the largest city in Southern Kaduna, tension was palpable as residents are always on red alert as the various tribal groups are in constant suspicion of their Hausa/Fulani neighbours.
As one moves down the Kagoro area in Kaura council area, the atmosphere becomes even tenser especially for Hausa/Fulani locals and their kinsmen who travel through the area to other states.
Local Fulani residents in Kafanchan said that about 21 of their kinsmen returning from Niger State to Bauchi State from a religious rituals were killed in Garaje by youths just outside Kafanchan in October, barely 24 hours after 30 persons were killed by herdsmen in Godogodo.
The crux of the matter
Down the Kagoro hills where the natural richness of the area is most obvious through the savannah plains, a visitor to Southern Kaduna would easily sense the reasons behind the incessant clashes between the local tribes and the Fulani herders.
For, the Southern plains of Kaduna have very rich soil and can produce any food crop found in Northern Nigeria. There are patches of farmlands in middle of grasses with some settlements in between the farms and the brushes.
This has become a major friction between herders and farmers for decades that jostle for the use of the land.
The situation immediately changes down the Kagoro-Gidan Waya federal highway up the top of the Kagoro hills. The silence on the road tells of the danger lurking ahead, with less traffic, empty villages with no one, even animals, anywhere in sight.
Only the courageous, helpless or downright stupid had ventured to stay. Our reporter met an aged woman, Agnes Tanko, with two of her children on the isolated road near Amere in Kaninikon Chiefdom who said she was forced by hunger to take the dangerous trip to her farm to harvest beans.
“We have no choice than to take the risk to harvest our crops, if we don’t we will die of hunger. Indeed there is enormous risk going in there but what can we do. If they choose to shoot us death so be it, I am tired of the crisis”, she said.
At Gidan Waya, where the Kaduna State College of Education is located, commercial life had been halted following the December 3 attacks on the town, the second in two months.
Fulani herdsmen had laid siege to the town killing scores just as they did in neighbouring Tafan District in Kagoro Chiefdom in Kaura LGA.
Other areas attacked in the area are Pasakori, Melwan, Angwan Misisi where the Palace of the District Head of Tafan was burnt down.
The crisis, which has also claimed the lives of some students of the College of Education, forced the closure of the institution and staff moved to its mini campus in Kafanchan town.
The December 3 attacks, it was learnt, was a revenge mission by the Fulani for the Killing of two of their kinsmen who were on their way to Kafanchan and were ambushed by irate youth of Mararaba Kagoro.
Earlier, two policemen were brutally murdered by unknown gunmen along the road and the youths had concluded that the Fulanis were the perpetrators and they took matters into their hands by invading a nearby Fulani community, killing some residents and their cattle.
Spokesperson for the Godogodo Chiefdom, Ado Dogo, said that the aftermath of the attacks on the Fulani community gave rise to the fresh attacks on several communities in the area, including Pasakori, Tafan and Gidan Waya.
When our reporter arrived Godogodo, the scale of the October 24 massacre was beyond comprehension as dozens of houses burnt, some looted before being set ablaze by the Fulani herdsmen.
Reverend Monday Adeke of the ECWA Church who witnessed the killings told www.icirnigeria.org that three previous attempts were made to attack the residents of the town in the past by the gunmen but that they were repelled.
“The security situation prompted the government to base a small unit of the Nigerian Army in the area to help the Police who obviously cannot withstand the fire power of the herdsmen.” Adeke observed.
“But when the raging herdsmen finally struck in the town in the evening of October 24, 2016 there was no stopping them.”
He said that residents heard rumours of possible attacks a day before but dismissed them until the first gunshots rang out at about 5.00 am.
“It became persistent and people started running and shouting, the clergyman stated, “we heard a warning shot from the military but they never left their base.”
Like the soldiers, Adeke alleged that the police were not much help either as they refrained from going to the centre of the conflict.
“The Police Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) stationed in the town only moved along the major highway back and front without venturing into the interior part of Godogodo where the herdsmen were shooting and burning houses”, he stated.
The clergyman lamented the inability of the military and the police to confront the gunmen who operated freely in broad day for hours.
“They kept shooting, killing and burning hours from 5.00 pm to 1.00 am”, he added.
When our reporter toured the interior part of Godogodo, the destruction was profound as the herdsmen succeeded in inflicting substantial damage on the community.
The herdsmen, it was learnt, used the primary school of the community as their launch base about 500 meters from the city centre.
It was a well-planned ambush and the attackers eliminated whatever they found on their way while looting some houses for valuables. Houses in the interior parts were the most affected because of their closeness to the bush.
Adeke expressed his displeasure with both the Kaduna State and federal governments over what he described as “lukewarm” approach to the crisis.
“No serious effort is being made to address the matter here, the people are being pushed to the wall. After disarming the youths of their weapons, the Fulanis launched their attacks”, he said.
Giving the statistics of the attack on Godogodo, Adeke said 30 persons lost their lives, 16 were injured and 325 houses worth millions of naira were burnt or completely destroyed by the herdsmen.
Other residents of the community talked about the horror of that night saying the herdsmen showed them no mercy, killing and maiming them as they went round the community.
Not only the indigenous residents suffered loses as the reprisal attacks by local youths destroyed properties belonging to their Hausa neighbours including the central Mosque in the town.
More than half of the residents of Godogodo fled the area, afraid of being victims twice. Some, it was gathered, moved to other placec in Kafanchan, Jos, Abuja, Kaduna and some neighbouring communities considered safe.
The Secretary of Godogodo Traditional Council, Rev Kaura Yaro told icirnigeria.org that his chiefdom has suffered a lot of pain due to the frequent herdsmen attacks.
Listing the affected communities in his chiefdom, Yaro said about nine settlements have been touched, some have no occupants again.
The affected communities are Ninte, Angwan Anjo, Akwa, Gada Biyu, Golgolfa, Godogodo, Tudun Wada, Dogon Fili and Antang.
Attempts by our reporter to visit Ninte, the scene of the first bloodshed that triggered chains of other attacks in Southern Kaduna was discourage by the few locals outside Godogodo.
Since the misunderstanding that led to a bloody clash in Ninte on May 31, 2016, between the indigenous Numana tribe and the Fulani community, the area has been ‘a no go area’ even for security men.
This website learnt that the Commanding Officer of the Kaduna State Police Command State Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and his men made an attempt to reach Ninte but were resisted by the fire power of the herdsmen who were said to be armed to the teeth armed.
Genesis of 2016 Bloodshed
Different accounts abound on what really happened on May 31, 2016 in the remote settlement of Ninte in Jema’s LGA. What is certain is that the incident has changed the entire landscape of Southern Kaduna into a land flowing with human blood.
The icirnigeria.org learnt that a dispute on May 26 between a rural dweller, Mallam Ango Gambo and a Fulani herder, Ardo Idi Chiroma, over the former spreading herbicides on a route considered by the later as his cows’ grazing route led to argument between the two.
The argument led to a fight and with the help of his children, Chiroma, from Rugan Ardo, a Fulani settlement, beat Gambo to stupor.
The motionless body of Gambo was said to have been discovered by a clergyman who alerted his people and the news quickly spread to Ninte community that the Fulanis had murdered one of theirs.
The rumoured death of Gambo was false, but many youths in the area who did not wait for the veracity of the story, decided to storm the Fulani settlement, fought with the Fulani herdsman, killed him and burnt down his huts along with more than 100 cows.
The news of the death of the Fulani herder and his cows angered the Fulani community as the news of the incident spread to as far as outside the boundaries of Nigeria.
At about 2.00 am in the heart of the night on May 31, the herdsmen launch a punitive attack on Ninte community to avenge their loses.
According to document obtained from Jema’a local government on the Ninte Sarki crisis, a report from a reconciliation committee set up on June 1, 2016 by the council indicated that seven persons were responsible for the attack on Gambo.
Its findings showed that a total of four persons were killed in the crisis namely: Ardo Idi Chiroma, Joshua Billa, Bafan Kasai and Sale Madaki.
The report also indicted Sule Ardo Idi, Abdul Ardi Idi and six others for the attack on Gambo. While Danjuma Adas, Gwamna Adas, Kefas Sabo, Elisha Yohanna and John Dominic responsible for the death of Ardo Idi Chiroma.
It also stated that 47 cows were killed, 46 are missing, 64 huts burnt and two persons injured (Ango Gambo and Christiana Audu).
Also, according to the report, Fulani herdsmen destroyed 16 farmlands at Dangwa and several others in Ninte, Zankan and Janda.
Finally, the report stated that four persons are in police detention and the entire Ninte community relocated even as the police cannot reach the community due to superior weapons of the gunmen.
No one has been charged to court over the crisis, it was learnt.
Speaking to our reporter on the crisis, the Interim Chairman, Jema’a local government, Katuka Bege said the crisis is rooted in the disagreement between two people in the Ninte area of Godogodo Chiefdom leading to a rumoured death of one.
“The person that was alleged to have been killed was found alive but lack of clarification of information led to reprisal attacks that led to a bigger bloodshed”, he said.
The council boss lamented that the whole crisis in Southern Kaduna could have been avoided if parties restrained themselves from acts of violence.
“If the Fulanis had taken the matter to the authorities, the matter wouldn’t have worsened and if the locals had processed the information reaching them, the reprisal attack wouldn’t have happened”, he said.
Gov El-Rufa’I criticised, accused of incitement
Some stakeholders in Southern Kaduna have been uneasy with recent comments made by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa’i over the insecurity in the state in recent time.
A cross section of them who spoke to this news website accused the governor of inciting the Fulani in Southern Kaduna to carry out more attacks on communities in order to justify the creation of grazing reserves in the area.
In particular, they made reference to his interview of April 6, 2016 with the Sunrise crew of Channels Television on Kaduna Investment Summit where the governor allegedly linked the current crisis to the post 2011 election violence in the state.
Some were also not comfortable with the governor telling the world that the state is paying compensation to the aggrieved Fulanis to stop the killings in Southern Kaduna.
Our checks on the video archive of Sunrise Interview of the governor conducted on April 6 showed Governor el-Rufa’i saying in part: “Kaduna lost about 800 lives during the post 2011 election violence. It was the worst in the country, many lives were lost particularly in Southern Kaduna that led to two things:
“First: many of the Fulanis that were killed or displaced during the period now lost their cattles and turned to cattle rustling.
“Second: we have series of reprisal killings happening over and in Southern Kaduna, this is what we found.”
“The Agwai’s committee found that those that to do these killings are from other African countries, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Senegal.
“This happened in April, this cattle rearers come from these countries and were going back because they move across the West African Sub-region just as they were going back, this problem happened in 2011.
“They were just victims that were passing through. Off course, the Fulanis have this long memory of revenging any killing, so their relations coming from other countries to revenge.
“So we have to reach out to those communities outside Nigeria and said to them that these cannot continue, let’s sit and settle, we can pay compensation, we will do anything, there is no sense coming to wiping out an entire village because something happened five years ago”, el-Rufa’i said in the interview.
The governor went to say that his “preference is for establishment of ranches than grazing reserves.”
“Our strategy is to identify the original grazing reserves and gazette them properly and talk to communities to allow these ranches to exist and it doesn’t have to be exclusively for one group, we will provide facilities, schools, health care”.
The governor’s comments have been viewed by some of the stakeholders as inciting, going by the sensitive nature of the matter in the state.
Simon Aranbu, member of the House of Representatives representing Kauru Federal Constituency told our reporter that the governor’s speech has incited the Fulanis against his people.
“The unforgiving belief of the Fulanis is absolute nonsense. What is happening is a subtle approach to take over our land.
“The governor’s speech has incited the Fulanis. Where did the governor get the statistics and demography?
“We must reclaim our land, we will not stop this fight. If they must get land, they should get it lawfully”, the lawmaker affirmed.
Aranbu further lamented that lack of security in his constituency has encourage the herders to invade more communities killing people at will.
“Angwan Magaji and Angwan Rimi lost people because the presence of security men is limited”, he said.
The legislator also lamented that the attacks of November 13 in his constituency were reported as reprisal’ attacks for the killing of Fulani herdsmen whereas “no herdsman was killed”.
He also observed that the silence of the federal government over the matter is very worrisome.
His counterpart, representing Kagarko/ Kachia Federal Constituency, Jagaba Adams Jagaba, speaking in the same vein, called on both the state and the federal governments to step up actions towards ending the killings in the Southern Kaduna.
Jagaba said in an interview with our reporter that apart from the killing of 46 people in Kauru council area, several communities are being attacked on daily basis, a situation that had led to the killing of many people.
Jagaba, who called on the government to end the killings just the way it tackled cattle rustling, added: “Cows cannot be better than human lives. There is failure of government from top to bottom in tackling the killings in Southern Kaduna.
“If something happens in the northern part of the state, government will act fast. But when it happens in Southern Kaduna, the government turns its eyes the other way. The government must act fast to tame these killings if it does not want the people of the area to be living in fears. Cows cannot be better than human lives,” Jagaba added
For Anto Ogah, the Secretary, Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU, a socio-cultural group in Southern Kaduna, the governor’s use of the word reprisal in the attacks is wrong as some areas where people were killed had had no crisis since 2011.
“This is the highest incitement. Statements by public officials are fuelling the crisis”, he added.
Former Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in the state, Mark Jacobs, criticized Governor el Rufai for his policy of compensating Fulani herdsmen.
“Paying attackers is strange, instead of bringing them to justice, government is paying them. It ought not to be mentioned by any serious government.
“It will not work, will not make sense as the attackers will rather buy more weapons”, he posited.
“A genocide is going on in Southern Kaduna. Up to 2,000 persons killed unchallenged,” he lamented.
Jacobs was of the view that a task force would have been used just like in the case of cattle rustling.
Senator Haruna Zego Aziz who represented Southern Kaduna in the Nigerian Senate between 1999 and 2003 is also not happy at the recent killings and how the government has handled the matter..
He told our reporter at his Kaduna residence that Nigeria is at war, adding that “some people are fighting Nigeria and the government is taking it lightly”.
He alleged that scant attention is being paid by the government to the crisis in the Southern part of the state. And challenged the state government to deplore the same military might it deployed to fight cattle rustling in the northern and central parts of the state to end the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna.
The biggest knocks on Governor el-Rufa’i came from Danjuma Laah, the current senator representing Kaduna South District at the Senate.
In a statement issued on December 7, which he personally signed, the Senator described the Governor El rufai as a bigot who should be held culpable in the ongoing genocide in Southern Kaduna.
Laah was reacting to comments made by el-Rufa’i that he paid Fulani Herdsmen to stop killing and destruction of properties in his district.
“I wish to state that these statements are not only unfortunate, callous, insensitive, crude and demeaning of his office and intelligence, it throws him up as a bigot and we feel he is culpable in the ongoing genocide in Southern Kaduna,” Laah said.
“As the Senator representing Kaduna South Senatorial Zone, I hereby wish to make my assertion, and indeed, views and position of my constituency on some very vexing and serious utterances made by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State as it concerns the survival and wellbeing of Southern Kaduna.
“This is from the outcome of Newspapers’ and online captions quoting Governor Nasir el-Rufai as saying that he has had to trace some of the murderous herdsmen that have been killing defenseless, innocent Southern Kaduna natives and destroying their villages.
The news sources said that after tracing them, he told them that he was also a Fulani man and paid them sums of money to stop the massacre, burning and tearing down of scores of communities in Southern Kaduna”, Laah said.
The Senator stated that the governor also uttered a very bizarre threat that he has compiled for arrest and prosecution names of persons asking the people of Southern Kaduna to defend themselves against the “obvious inability of the chief security officer of the state – Governor Nasir El-Rufai – to secure their lives and property and save them the trauma of being under perpetual fear of further unprovoked violence.”
He said that the statements “are not only unfortunate, callous, insensitive, crude and demeaning of his office and intelligence, it throws him up as a bigot and we feel he is culpable in the ongoing genocide in Southern Kaduna.”
Senator Laah also called on security agencies in the country to hold governor el rufai responsible to the crisis and killings in Southern Kaduna.
“The Federal Government, especially the Nigeria Intelligence Agency, NIA, the Directorate of State Services, SSS, the Directorate of Military Intelligence, DMI and sundry agencies should look no further for the solution to the unrelenting killings in Southern Kaduna. El-Rufai should be held to produce the killers of innocent Nigerians since he has been able to identify them and their location,” he stated.
“This will lead to their sponsors in Nigeria and other places. Nigeria should then use its diplomatic relationship and extradite these murderers of its citizens, plunderers and arsonists to face justice in Nigeria,” he added.
The senator called on the warring factions to employ dialogue in resolving their age old differences, noting that it was the only viable option they have
“I call on all Kaduna State natives, all Hausa and Fulani of our area who are genuinely interested in peace to forget about political, tribal and religious leanings and come together in prayers and for genuine dialogue amongst ourselves as the last option left for peace and security in Southern Kaduna.
*This is the first of a two – part report on the crisis in Southern kaduna that has led to the killing of hundreds of people. Read the second and concluding part tomorrow.