By Masara Kim

When it was reported last year that some high valued mineral deposits had been discovered in parts of Southern Kaduna, many critical minds began foreseeing the possibility of a dead end to the quest for peace in the troubled Southern Kaduna region.

This is perhaps not unconnected to the fact that most areas that have been found to be rich in minerals have often experienced one form of conflict or the oth
picture source unavailable
er. Jos for instance started as a mining community. Till date, the city has not recovered from the upheavals of the recent past. The Niger Delta is yet another region just as many other oil-rich areas of the world.

In 2015, many including John Campbell, senior fellow for Africa Studies and former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, contemplated the possibility of the Middle-Belt crisis being connected to resource control. In particular, desertification in the north and erosion among others in the south were thought to be pushing people towards the Middle-Belt thus exerting undue pressure on the region.

The Southern Kaduna crisis which began gaining popularity in late 2015 followed many similar land resource related conflicts in parts of Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue and a host of other States in the Middle-Belt. Just like the aforementioned States, the Southern Kaduna killings were often reported to have been carried out by unknown gunmen.


Even when all fingers pointed towards Fulani herdsmen with more daring evidences being revealed, hardly were any of the influential people among the Muslim population in Nigeria willing to admit it was Fulani herdsmen that were behind the attacks.



In fact, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, in July 2016 claimed that herdsmen carrying guns and killing people are foreign terrorists and not necessarily Fulani. However, soon before we knew it, a number of Fulani armed men were in the news reportedly agreeing to maintain peace.


Again, on the 16th of August, 2016, a chieftain of Kaduna state Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Dr.Haruna Usman, said that the sacking of Ninte, and other villages, in Jema’aLocal Government, was in response to the killing of a Fulani ardo in Ninte.


Similarly, the Jema’a Foundation, Miyetti Allah and Mobgal Fulbe Development Association in another Press Conference in Kaduna on November 7, 2016 made statements that suggested Fulani and Hausa Muslims were behind the ethnic cleansing and destruction of villages in Southern Kaduna.


In their claims, they reportedly said the attacks were necessary to entrench Muslims’ rights to practice Islam, alleging they were being marginalized in Southern Kaduna. It didn’t stop there. On the 31st of December, 2016, Dr. Ibrahim Abdullahi, the Assistant National Secretary of Miyetti Allah also echoed the same position, that the Fulani were carrying out reprisal killings.

Payment of Ransom to Fulani attackers by Elrufai


Until then however, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State was quoted as saying he had paid some Fulani herdsmen identified to have been behind the killings in Southern Kaduna in order to appease them to stop the attacks.


One would have thought bringing them to justice was the best thing but of course as one of the reports quotes him as saying, he is a Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for cattle lost during the 2011 post-election crises. In any case, the compensations were paid to the supposed foreigners who were on a ‘pay-back’ mission in Nigeria. However, the killings never stopped. Meanwhile he had said they had accepted his terms and agreed to let go.


El-rufai was all along quiet on the issues just as President Buhari. Buhari had in his 2016 Independence speech acknowledged the reality of the farmer-herdsmen crises, saying, “This Administration is firmly resolved to tackle these challenges and to defeat them.”


Instead of living up to his words, he now claims he is silent because Governor El-rufai was on top of the situation in the state which therefore didn’t call for his interference. Meanwhile, he had in April 2016 directed a crackdown on Fulani terrorists by security Chiefs. That was after the attacks spread to Southern Nigeria’s Enugu State. One wonders if the President didn’t know about Governors existing and/or working in Enugu and Benue.


El-rufai on the other hand broke his silence when the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and a host of others began calling on citizens of the affected region to defend themselves. To him, self-defense is hate speech.


Buhari and El-rufai are however not the only leaders and/or influential people whose comments condemning the attacks would have gone a long way in stemming the crisis in that region. Such like the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), National Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) as well as the Council of Imams and Ulama of Kaduna State are equally highly influential parties.


Self-defense


However, while the National Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) had last year while reacting to a bill that seeks to protect the interests of Christians in Nigeria said it was recipe for anarchy, it seems not to see the injustice being meted out against the indigenous people of Southern Kaduna.


The Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) has joined Gov. El-rufai and the Council of Imams and Ulama of Kaduna State to condemn calls for self-defense. The Council of Imams and Ulama has in fact demanded the arrest of Rev Zacahriah Gado of 19 DCC Fellowship, the CAN President, Samson Ayokunle, CAN Secretary-General Musa Asake, John Danfulani, and Solomon Musa, SOKAPU President over self-defense issues.


This therefore brings the question; who are truly the people behind the attacks in Southern Kaduna – foreign terrorists, aggrieved parties or local insurgents? When the Fulani herdsmen seem to be succeeding in their conquest, the concerned parties will either keep quiet or claim the gunmen are not Nigerians. But when the issues of arrest or self-defense come to the fore, they begin to speak out.


And we dare ask again, are they speaking out in their favour as their own brothers or as concerned humans? If it is as their own brothers, it means then that they have the solution to the problem. This is because they know them and they can either stop them or hand them over to security operatives for prosecution. This is even more crucial given that the Muslim attackers are battering the image of the religion.


If on the contrary, they are merely speaking out of human feelings, does it mean that the lives of the natives being slain on daily basis do not matter? These perhaps are the reasons the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said, “It is obvious that these Imams are part of the evil network desperately trying to decimate the Christian population of Southern Kaduna and the taking over of their lands by Islamists herdsmen terrorists.” No wonder the recent calls for the creation of Southern Kaduna State to safeguard the interests of the local populace there.


It is heartwarming that the United Nations (UN) has promised to look into the killings in Southern Kaduna and ensure that justice prevails following a petition by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP. However, to the political and religious leaders that have remained unconcerned on the issues, this does not mean anything. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s image is being battered before the international community.

After Ransom, what next?


Perhaps as Professor Wole Soyinka has humorously said, the reason President Muhammadu Buhari was silent on the killings may have been because he was waiting for Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, to first appease the killers with money so that they can stop the killings despite the reported death of over 800. He was however swift in condemning the death of five in the Unimaid mosque bomb blast.


On the Southern Kaduna issue, now that the insurgents have been settled however, why can’t the government go after them since they wouldn’t stop the killings? That has always been the practice after amnesty when government announces monetary rewards for repentant criminals. Those who refuse to show up during the grace period are usually and ideally clamped down upon.


Even if they cannot be tried in Nigeria because they are not Nigerians, they can either be handed over to the governments of their home countries for prosecution or even taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) where they international laws apply. Now that this has not been done, it is likely that the claims of some individuals and groups that he may have given them funds to go and buy arms with which to keep terrorizing the people can be hardly refuted.


This therefore brings to bare the timeliness of the Senate’s resolve to investigate the killings although quelling the crisis is more important which the Army has finally after much destructions and public outcry has moved to take care of.


The senate’s move must however be done with sincerity of purpose, fast and in the interest of all. Any attempt to bring sentiments into it would only lead to another dead end which could lead to another outbreak of violence later in time.


Those reportedly identified and paid ransoms equally need to be brought before the law. Criminals cannot always be treated as brothers against the constitutional provisions which forbid taking the laws into one’s hands and taking another man’s life illegally. The constitution indeed is greater than any man or woman, group or tribe and it must therefore be applied on all, without fear or favour in line with the rule of law which forms the basis for democracy worldwide. For those “arbitrarily” arrested, particularly Southern Kaduna indigenes who are supposedly victims of the attacks, justice must be ensured for or against them depending on what the courts come up with after they must have been timely referred to them.