Protesters took to the streets of Kaduna, Lagos and Abuja on Saturday morning to protest over what they described as “genocide” taking place in the southern part of Kaduna State and the government’s inability to stop the killings.
The protest took place about 48 hours after suspected Fulani militiamen unleashed fresh attacks on Apiashyim, Kibori, Atakmawei, Apyiako, and Magamiya villages in Southern Kaduna.
In the wake of the attacks, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union said 33 people were killed. But the police gave the casualty figure as 21.
The National Youth Leader of SOKAPU, John Isaac, said in Kaduna, the protesters stormed the streets of Samaru-Kataf, Zonkwa and Mabushi areas in the Zangon Kataf Local Government Area.
Isaac said solidarity protests were also held in the Maryland, Ikeja area of Lagos, while in Abuja, the protesters convened at the Unity Fountain to demand an end to the incessant killings.
Amid the continuous killing and kidnapping of Southern Kaduna natives, SOKAPU stated that between January 1 and August 5, over 184 persons were killed by militant herdsmen.
Over the same period, the union said over 76 persons were kidnapped even as the whereabouts of some of the victims remained unknown till today. More than 9,000 had also reportedly been displaced by the marauding militiamen.
Angered by the killing spree in their communities, Southern Kaduna people on Saturday marched in different parts of the state, demanding an immediate end to the massacre.
The protesters were joined by leaders of some sociopolitical groups in the country, including Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan Niger Delta Forum, and the Middle Belt Forum.
The groups’ leaders, who paid a solidarity visit to the region, sympathised with the natives in their trying times. They also visited some internally displaced persons and sought the quick intervention of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in ending the crisis.
Clad in dark attire, the protesters, in their hundreds, carried placards with inscriptions reading: “Enough is enough,” “We cannot continue like this,” “Southern Kaduna lives matter,” “Government has failed us,” “Allow us to defend ourselves if you can’t,” and “End killings in Southern Kaduna,” among others.
Some of the protesters stormed the streets of Samaru-Kataf, Zonkwa and Mabushi areas in the Zangon Kataf LGA despite a 24-hour curfew imposed by the state Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
The Zangon Kataf branch chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Isaac Makama, said the protest was a demonstration of the natives’ displeasure with the government’s handling of the insecurity situation.
“Let government rise up and protect the people because it is sad to see that people will just sit in their homes and get killed for no just cause, and these killers were never arrested even with the huge security around,” he said.
The protesters also marched to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation junction in Chikun Local Government Area of the state.
However, anti-riot policemen stormed the venue of the protest and arrested the protest leaders and some other demonstrators.
Confirming the arrest, the state police command’s Public Relations Officer, ASP Mohammed Jalige, said it was because the protesters did not inform the police before embarking on the protest.
“Some of them were arrested because they did not inform us of the procession,” Jalige told one of our correspondents, adding that he could not give the number of those arrested.
“I cannot tell you how many of them were picked up now but I will get back to you later,” he said. However, he did not do so as of press time.
Meanwhile, leaders of the various sociopolitical groups berated the government for not ending the Southern Kaduna crisis.
The groups also announced a collective donation of N2m aid to the IDPs at the Goni-Gora IDPs’ camp.
The National Chairman of PANDEF, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd.), who condoled with the IDPs, said the forum was instructed to pay the solidarity visit by its national leader, Chief Edwin Clark.
Also at the IDPs’ camp, the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, told the President, to save the country from an imminent collapse following the spate of insecurity in the country.
Nwodo, who was represented by the President of the Ohanaeze group in Kaduna State, Chief Ben Churchill-Aniekwena, said what was happening in Southern Kaduna was pathetic.
“At this stage, may I draw the attention of all the state apparatuses – I mean the police and other security forces; the judiciary, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, to do the needful to save this country from a total and imminent collapse. Enough is enough!” he said.
On his part, Afenifere spokesperson, Mr Yinka Odumakin, tackled the Presidency for being the “mouthpiece of the attackers,” adding that it was shameful that security forces were looking the other way while genocide was happening in Southern Kaduna.
“Our position is that for the South-South, South-West, South-East, and the Middle Belt, whoever attacks one attacks all. So, the attacks on Southern Kaduna are attacks on all of us,” he said.
Also speaking, the President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Pogu, renewed the call for the restructuring of the country, saying if the Southern Kaduna people had their own police, they wouldn’t suffer the persistent attacks by suspected Fulani militia.
The National President of SOKAPU, Mr Jonathan Asake, appreciated the sociopolitical groups’ leaders for the solidarity visit; he said it was a mark of a genuine concern for humanity.
The Coordinator of the Mercy IDPs’ camp, Rev Gambo Waziri, decried that the state government had not shown any care to the IDPs.
He said with the latest attacks on Thursday, the camp’s population had surged to over 3,000 displaced persons.
Amnesty Int’l condemns police clampdown, demands protesters’ release
A global human rights organisation, Amnesty International, on Saturday knocked the police in Kaduna State for clamping down on residents protesting the continuous Southern Kaduna killings, saying those arrested “must be released immediately.”
Amnesty International, in a series of tweets, also demanded that the federal and state governments end the killings in the region.
The AI said it could confirm that three protesters were picked up on Saturday in the state, stressing that protest was a human right.
AI said, “Amnesty International condemns the crackdown on protests and the arrest of three protesters today in Kaduna by security forces. We call on authorities to respect and protect the right to freedom of assembly. Those arrested must be released immediately in Southern Kaduna.
“The Nigerian authorities must do more to end the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna and investigate all previous violence in the area. Perpetrators must be brought to justice and lives must be protected in Southern Kaduna and other parts of Nigeria facing frequent violence.”
184 killed, 76 kidnapped in seven months –SOKAPU
Meanwhile, SOKAPU has said between January 1 and August 5, over 184 persons were killed in attacks unleashed on communities by suspected Fulani militiamen.
In a document titled, ‘Fulani militia atrocities in Southern Kaduna from January 1 to August 5,’ and signed by the national spokesperson for SOKAPU, Mr Luka Binniyat, the union detailed the number of casualties recorded as a result of attacks by suspected Fulani militiamen within the past seven months.
For example, in January, the union recorded at least 42 deaths and over 50 kidnap cases in communities in Southern Kaduna.
Also, on February 13, militiamen reportedly invaded an open market In Maro village in Kajuru Local Government Area, killed eight people and caused severe injuries on many others.
On March 1, the bandits also attacked Matsirga village in the Zangon Kataf LGA, where they killed two persons and wounded five others.
In April, SOKAPU said it documented 44 deaths and 12 kidnap cases in several communities.
Also, according to the union, 30 natives were killed between May 18 and 24 in villages such as Magunguna, Idazo, Unguwan Galadima, Unguwan Guza, and Etissi in the Idon Ward of Kajuru Local Government Area.
In June, the union said villages such as Agwalla Magayaki and Tudun Agwalla in the Kajuru Local Government Area were attacked, resulting in the murder of nine persons, including five children.
In July, 21 deaths were recorded in some communities in Southern Kaduna.
In August, the latest attacks reportedly took place from Wednesday to Thursday in Apiashyim, Kibori, Atakmawei, Apyiako, and Magamiya villages. In the wake of the attacks, SOKAPU said 33 people were killed, although the police gave the casualty figure as 21.
SOKAPU’s spokesperson, Binniyat, further said more people were being kidnapped and killed on a daily basis, adding that some of the killings were undocumented because they were not reported.
The union bemoaned the after-effects of the worsening insecurity. For instance, the union said in the eastern part of Chikun Local Government Area, 27 schools and over 65 churches had been shut before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
SOKAPU also quoted the Christian Association of Nigeria as stating that in the past one year, a ransom of over N400m had been paid to kidnappers “by these impoverished societies.”
The union said as of today, villagers numbering over 9,000 had been displaced by the marauding militiamen.
“The displaced are now taking refuge in nearby towns under tough conditions in this grim period of coronavirus pandemic,” Binniyat said.