OCTOBER 6, 2014
Twenty charred remains of family members stood in a circle. They had braced a burning fire united in a common fate until the last of them was asphyxiated. A mass grave graciously receives to rest the bodies of hundreds of children: Sucklings ripped off by the sword from their mothers’ breasts. Toddlers severed from life, many of whose heads had been dismembered. Ashen remains of a mother clutched to her baby. Pregnant women ripped open like a pouch. Skulls cracked open.At a camp sits a teary retired police officer-a metaphor of how not to be a victim. He had lost to the death merchants his aged father, wife, all of his children, two brothers and their spouses. Life was for him a scene set in the surreal. This is not Syria, Kosovo, or the Middle East
This is Southern Kaduna, a senatorial zone located between longitude 5 ‘0’ and 7 ‘0’ East of Kaduna. It is the home of the ancient Nok Civilization. The area is characterized by tropical grassland, lush meadows, steep slopes, severe lows and fast floods. Referred to as the tropical beauty of the middle belt, it has a long stretch of Savannah belt, seductive mountains, cascading waters and whispering forests.
Sadly, an insecurity wedge has now been driven between much of nature’s endowment to the agrarian people of Southern Kaduna and daily life. Since 2011, there have been attacks on their communities. The attacks are organized, systematic and vicious as marauders prey on their victims mostly in the dead of night but sometimes audaciously in the daytime and at market squares.
From 2011 till date, there have been thirty nine of such attacks and the loss of about 4,000 lives, with several incapacitated and thousands displaced. This is no Civil War yet such staggering figure stares blankly at a non-challant Nigerian State. The casualty figure of the Boko haram insurgency in much of Nigeria’s North East and North West (about seven states) is put at 16,000 deaths. Southern Kaduna senatorial zone alone accounts for one-fourth of that figure. Surely, the biggest security risk Nigeria faces is not in the North East but in Southern Kaduna.
What is more? the horrifying harvest of deaths, mind boggling casualty rate, the extreme violence, pollution of water sources and burning of granaries calls to question whether this is indeed a herder-farmer conflict or Terrorism. Section 1 of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 defines terrorism as ‘’an act which is deliberately done with malice aforethought and which… includes attacks upon a person’s life which may cause bodily harm or death, kidnappings, as well as the destruction of government facilities or private properties in a manner likely to endanger human life or result in a major economic loss.” It is this definition by our legal codes that should cause the veil to be pierced particularly because these wholesale killings echo in several parts of the middle belt including Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa and Taraba states. How and when did the typical herder move from holding a shepherd stick to sophisticated weapons? And if this is the juggle for pasture for the cows and farming plots for the farmer; what explains the pollution of water sources, burning of granaries and houses? There is a story that needs to be uncovered.
Yet, what is most disturbing is government’s response. The President visited The Synagogue Church where 86 people were reported killed without a similar exercise for a people who count their loses in thousands. Several Committees have been set up to look into the Boko Haram scourge of the North East, but a people literally at the verge of extinction, economically incapacitated, morally at their lowest ebb are yet to have a mention in national discourse on security.
The Kaduna State Government is even more stunning in her approach. On 25th March 2014, Reuben Buhari, Former Spokesman of the late Governor Patrick Yakowa, was arrested for posting some pictures of the killings on a Face book group. Interestingly, Reuben was not charged to court. He was escorted by trucks of police at the order of the Inspector General of Police to Louis Edet House at the FCT. Only a sustained pressure by protesters led to his release. He was however dismissed from his job then as media aide to a Minister.
Over a week ago, Madam Christiana E. Musa was served a query letter and transferred from her station at the directives of the Kaduna State Government. She was alleged to have organized the protest of the Sanga Killings, an allegation she maintains is not supported by empirical evidence.
The third response of the Kaduna State Government is even more worrisome. The State on the 1st of October banned ‘’all manners of protests and rallies’’ in the state. Ominously, ‘’all manners’’ exclude political rallies.
Pray, why would any democratic government abuse the foundation upon which free societies were built? Why should the Fundamental Freedoms of her people-especially the right to Peaceful Assembly, the right to freedom of Speech, Expression and the Press be muzzled? Why should the biggest beneficiaries of the sashaying beauty of Democracy be mentioned among her rapists? What is the likely outcome of such high handedness for any government? Chile, under Augusto Pinochet is a classic. Under his watch, Chile translated from an egalitarian society to one where democratic principles were subverted, basic human rights were violated and the rule of law was flouted with impunity. His government found method in its madness as juridical order was stifled and an elaborate façade of legitimacy was built around crime. The Chilean Judiciary, the principal guarantor of civil and political rights, watched and did nothing until the military regime carved the nation into a cesspool of casualties of its own nationals. Pinochet, among other charges was indicted for Criminal negligence.
Back home, the Nigerian government (Federal and State) is liable, not for what it has done, but what it has failed to do. They have watched with careless abandon as thousands of people are killed in Southern Kaduna and across the Middle Belt region. These killings do not only call for condemnation but for accountability.
The Federal Government must investigate the root cause of these killings and bring to book the facilitators and perpetrators. Southern Kaduna should be insulated from any more deaths by stationing more Military establishments which will allow for quick response to emergencies. The rest of us have a duty of care. When killings happen in the countryside, we pay less attention. The deaths did not occur in plane crashes or skyscrapers, so we round down the figures. When the killing fields are located in Northern Nigeria, other parts of the country abandon the ’Abokis’ to carry their cross. Some Nigerians may like to believe that the killings in Southern Kaduna are of no concern to them; that even if SK falls, life will still go on. But it is a matter of most vital attention that any where the tenets of democracy and basic freedoms are being corroded, we fix them very quickly for if unchecked the gully erosion of violence, tyranny and oppression will consume us all. Stop Southern Kaduna Killings!!!
By Ejom Paul