Tribal groups cry out
As the shock over the unending killings in Kaduna State, Nigeria’s North-west continues, Fulani leaders and groups have cried out, saying 85 of their kinsmen have been murdered and their properties destroyed in Southern Kaduna.
THE WHISTLER had in the first part of this story, reported how more than 136 people, mainly Christians, were slaughtered between June 10 – August 21, 2020 in nine Southern Kaduna local government areas.
However, Fulani groups and survivors have rejected the narratives of the killings, saying their people have also been murdered and their properties pillaged by Atyap and other indigenous communities in the zone.
According to them, Fulani people were being killed in many parts of Zangon Kataf and Kaura local government areas.
The Chairman, Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Kaduna State chapter, Haruna Tugga, his counterpart in Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GADFAN), Ardo Gundaru, and Secretary General of the state chapter of Mobgal Fulbe Development Association (MOFDA), Nuhu Ibrahim, have come out to tell the other side of the story.
Others are the Chairman, Bandiraku Fulbe Youth Association of Nigeria (BAFYAN), Kaduna State chapter, Abbas Julde, and Coordinator, Kaduna State chapter of Fulbe Development and Cultural Organization (FUDECO), Abubakar Naseh.
The heads of the five Fulani groups have accused the media of putting out a jaundiced narrative about the crisis and insisted that their people have been slaughtered in many parts of Zangon Kataf and Kaura Local Government areas of the state.
In a document signed by leaders of the five groups and made available to this reporter, they alleged that between June 11 and 14, their members were “deliberately targeted, killed and maimed in a coordinated and systematic manner that leave us with no other conclusion than the fact that they are premeditated and well planned.”
The leaders of the Fulani groups said they are speaking up against the calculated attempts to divert attention from the carnage meted to peace-loving and law-abiding Fulbe communities in Kataf Chiefdom and its surrounding villages.
“The current crisis emanated from a land dispute between the native Kataf farmers and the indigenous Hausa farmers of Zango town which eventually metamorphosed to an allegation of killing of a farmer of Atyap tribe, who went to cultivate the disputed farmland by unknown persons.
“This is a fact also acknowledged by the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, (SOKAPU) in its statement issued hurriedly by its National Publicity Secretary, who is also from the same aggressor Kataf (Atyap) tribe on 11th June, 2020, following which the Kataf youths erupted in violence on the same date by launching simultaneous but ferocious attacks on unsuspecting Fulani communities across several villages in the Atyap Chiefdom.
“The unanswered poser still remains, why should the Atyap youths transfer their aggression on peaceful Fulani communities which have nothing to do with either the farmland dispute or the alleged killing of the Kataf farmer?
“The answer is probably not far-fetched, the Atyap youth have been brainwashed and sponsored for such evil acts by a certain illegal union which has been instigating and supporting Adara youth to launch similar attacks against Fulani communities in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State and even in other parts of Southern Kaduna geo-political zone,” the Fulani leaders indicated in the signed document.
The tribal leaders also alleged that after the June 11 protest in Zangon town, Fulani communities were subjected to four days of well-coordinated attacks by suspected Atyap people.
During the attacks, they said helpless Fulani women, children and the aged were slaughtered in their homes while sleeping, on the highways and in the bushes where they raised cows.
While the level of damage to lives and properties to their members cannot be quantified, the leaders said they have credible intelligence pointing to the Atyap people as those launching the bloody attacks.
According to records made available by the groups, a total of 14 Fulani settlements have been invaded and 84 persons killed in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area.
The affected settlements are: Kurmin Masara, Gora Chibob, Tangjei (Angwan Gaya), Kwakwu, SabonKaura (Yola Rebo), Zamandabo, Asha Awuse and Manchon Kodel.
Others are Sako, Barkin Kogi, Ungwan Dawakai, Mate, Zambina Tsam Chiefdom and Warkak Yagwak village.
Murders on highways
Apart from killing Fulanis, burning their homes and plundering their settlements, the leaders of the Fulani groups also accused Atyap youth and their collaborators of murdering Fulbe people along highways and roads in Southern Kaduna.
For instance, they alleged that Jankado Sule (49) and his two children, Sadiya (12) and Abubakar (17) were waylaid and killed on their way to hospital in Kurmin Masara village.
Similarly, they said one Ibrahim and his daughter, Mairo (22), were brutally killed at a roadblock mounted by Atyap youths at Angwan Wakili.
They said one Alhaji Yanki, who was attacked along Zangon Kataf Barkin Kogi Road, was lucky to escape with severe injuries and was rushed to a hospital in Mariri, Lere Local Government Area.
They also reported that two unidentified persons were killed at Mate near Samaru Kataf and Kankurmi villages within the Atyap Chiefdom.
The Fulani leaders said Atyap youth conduct stop-and-search operations along the federal highways between Kafanchan to Saminaka, just to identiy and brutally murder and plunder Fulani Muslims.
While mourning with survivors of the crisis, the Fulani chiefs pledged they would not yield until justice is served on the culprits of the bloodletting.
They listed some of the locations where survivors of the crisis are taking refuge to include Zango town in, Angwan Zomo, Mariri, Ladduga, Fadan Chawai, Panda in Nasarawa State as well as Bauchi and Plateau states.
They advised the public to disregard what they called “rabble rousing,” by the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Atyap Development Association and other “nervous” individuals and groups seeking to divert attention from the atrocities committed against their (Fulani) members.
Continuing, the Fulani leaders wrote, “We have equally noted the level of unprofessionalism exhibited on a daily basis by some press men and media houses who rush to publish every junk and hate story against our members across the country without cross-checking and without affording our members equal opportunity to tell their own stories.
“We hereby condemn such type of media practice as unethical and unacceptable in the 21st century.
“We urge our members to remain calm, steadfast, law-abiding, optimistic and cooperate with relevant authorities to ensure that justice is served on the perpetrators of all the attacks no matter what it takes and no matter how long,” the tribal leaders stated.
The groups commended security personnel and the government for restoring peace and the rule of law in the troubled area and urged them to recover the remains of their members so they could be properly buried.
They also called on the government to identify the culprits and their sponsors, arrest, prosecute and convict them to serve as a deterrent for others.
They invited individuals, groups and the government to urgently render humanitarian services to the injured and other surviving victims of attacks scattered across different parts of the state.
“We want to state without equivocation that we will not fall our arms as individuals and groups to allow anybody no matter how highly placed to intimidate, harass, blackmail, undermine, oppress or underrate our people any longer in any form or in any part of this state.
“We therefore warn that any form of aggression, intimidation, blackmail, attack, hate, victimization or oppression of our people by the Kataf (Atyap) youths and their sponsors must stop,” the Fulani groups warned.
Going in search of survivors
Apart from media appearances and press releases alleging attacks on Fulani, almost nothing had been known about Fulani victims of the Southern Kaduna crisis until our reporter went in search of survivors, in a delicate journey that took him across four local government areas.
He was accompanied on the trip by the National Secretary General, Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN), Ibrahim Abdullahi, a young Fulani activist and influencer, Ismail Abdallah and a local reporter who served as a fixer and an interpreter.
Our correspondent visited local communities and forests in Kachia, Zangon Kataf, Lere and Kaura local government areas of Kaduna State where he came face-to-face with some survivors of the crisis.
The accounts were tragic and disturbing; as victim-after-victim relived the moments their communities came under attack and how they escaped by the skin of their teeth, leaving their properties at the mercy of angry assailants who know no mercy.
Our correspondent had sought and obtained the consent of 10 victims including permission to take photographs and to tell their stories.
Here’s what we found
Hawua Adamu, 78, said she had lived her entire life in Angwan Ganyi, a settlement in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area.
According to her, the Fulani community in Zangon Kataf had always lived peacefully with their neighbours including the Atyap people.
But everything changed on June 11, when a young man was killed in a farm and his body was found somewhere near a river.
“We heard there was a disagreement between Hausa and Atyap communities over land issues.
“On that day (June 11), we saw Atyap youth moving in large numbers towards the town but because we had no misunderstanding with them, we were not bothered,” she recalled.
“We were wrong to think they would be no problem because when they returned, they started attacking our people and burning our houses.
“We ran away without anything and the youth burnt down everything we had including our foodstuff and household items.
“We don’t have anything now and we can’t feed unless people give us what to eat. This crisis has destroyed our lives and families,” she said with an air of resignation.
While the majority of people from her community were able to escape to safety, two of her relations, Abdullahi and Saleh Abubakar, were not that lucky as they got killed in the bush.
According to her, the twin brothers who just clocked 42 were murdered by Atyap youth.
“One morning, we learnt that a young man was killed and his corpse was found somewhere near the river. Later, we saw Atyap youth moving in large numbers towards Zangon town,” Halima Abubakar, 47, from Angwan Ganyi, Zango Kataf, told our correspondent.
On seeing the large movement of the local youth, she said members of her community (Fulani) sensed there would be trouble and started parking so they could run away.
According to her, some of the Atyap youth prevented them from running away and instead gave them assurances that no harm will befall them.
“But that was a lie as some youth of Atyap origin later came to chase them away and burnt their houses when they returned from the meeting they had in Zango town,” Halima said.
“They started the attack at about 2pm and we thought since we live close to the palace of the Atyap traditional ruler they would not come to our area.
“But that was a lie. They invaded our settlement and burnt down everything and the Atyap traditional ruler did not stop the youth or do anything to protect us.
“He even said the protest was peaceful and that nobody was hurt but we know that is a lie. Our properties were destroyed and people were killed,” Halima said.
“On Thursday morning, we were told that the son of a pastor was missing. We later heard the authorities were investigating the matter and that his corpse was found around Barkin Kogi River,” recalled Ardo Hassan Umar from Angwan Ruhogo in Zango Kataf.
“Later that morning, we saw Kataf people moving to Zango fully armed. As they were coming back from Zango town, they started pursuing us and we ran in different directions for safety.
“We escaped to Angwan Zomo only to hear that they have burnt down everything we left behind,” he said.
He explained that as soon as they saw the youth moving in large numbers to the town, they knew they would be trouble and immediately moved their wives and children out of the settlement.
While he insisted that the Fulani people who refused to run away were ordered to be killed, he did not name the person who authorised the killings or give name of the victims.
“I don’t know who ordered the killings but what I can tell you is that those who killed our people were Atyap youth,” he said when asked to name the person who ordered the alleged killings in Angwan Ruhogo.
Umar lamented the hardship they have been facing since they were displaced from their homes, adding that they now live on charity.
“Life is not easy since we were chased out of our homes. We were not allowed to take anything and so we now rely on assistance from our relations and other good spirited individuals.
“We have never had any disagreement or quarrel over anything with our Atyap neighbours and we don’t understand why they attacked us.
“The dispute was between Hausa and Kataf people and we were not involved in any way,” he said.
The story was not different in Wawan Rafi, another Fulani settlement in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area.
According to Tahiru Salihu, a resident, trouble started on Thursday, June 11, when they saw Kataf youth coming out from their villages in groups.
“When we saw the movements, we started making preparations to run away. We suspected that they would be trouble and so we sent our wives and children into the bush.
“On Saturday we alerted security operatives and then moved our families into Zango town and then took our animals away through the bush.
“It was when security operatives arrived that they helped us to evacuate the area.
“Though our houses were not burnt down, the doors and windows have been removed and the Atyap people have taken over our farms and harvested our crops,” he said.
Zainab Yakubu, a former resident of Angwan Gaiya, said Atyap people never had any misunderstanding with her people before the attack on June 11.
Corroborating the accounts of other victims of the crisis, she insisted that what led to the killings was a land dispute between Atyap people and their Hausa neighbours which later snowballed into the conflict that saw them evicted from their settlement.
Even in her anger and frustration, Hajiya Yakubu said an Atyap saved the lives of scores of Fulani women and children in the heat of the crisis.
As irate youth moved from one house to another, burning everything including their stock of grains and looking for their occupants to slaughter, she said the women in the settlement totalling 35 gathered their children and fled into the bush.
However, while they were scampering through the bush, looking for where to hide, the most unthinkable thing happened.
They came face-to-face with an Atyap man and they concluded that they had finally met their waterloo.
“We ran into an Atyap man while we were in the bush trying to escape and we started crying thinking he would kill us and our children.
“But he told us to stop running and took all of us secretly back to the community and hid us in his house until in the night when the people had gone to bed.
“I have seen the man before but I don’t really know him. All I know is that when we heard the youths were coming we all ran into the bush with our children and a few things we could take along.
“When his neighourhood was calm and most people had gone to bed, he arranged a vehicle that conveyed us to Zango town where we stayed until we were moved down to Kachia,” Yakubu recounted.
Musa Adamu, who was displaced from Angwan Mashan in Zango Kataf accused Atyap people of transferring aggression on Fulani families instead of the Hausas who were locked in a land dispute with them.
While no life was lost in Angwan Mashan, apparently because the people fled as soon as the crisis started, he insisted that well-armed Atyap youth burnt down everything in the area.
“We heard they were burning other settlements and we did not wait for them to come to ours. We ran away leaving our properties behind and we learnt they burnt everything,” he told our correspondent.
“We took our families and ran to Zango town and after the military was deployed to secure the highway, transportation was arranged for us to move to Angwan Zomo where we are now.
Angwan Zomo is a forest settlement located about five kilometres behind the Nigerian Army School of Artillery.
“Before moving here, our Hausa neighbours had sheltered and fed us for two weeks in Zango town.
“We are in a very difficult situation and we now live on alms from people. Government has not given us any form of assistance since we escaped,” he said.
Having lived with the Atyap people for his entire life, Adamu couldn’t comprehend why his neighbours unexpectedly waged war and assaulted them without any provocation.
Just like all other victims of the crisis, he insisted that it was the Hausas who had a disagreement with the Atyap people but wondered why the Fulanis were attacked and their properties destroyed.
“I think it was just because they were fighting with Hausa Muslims and they feel we are Muslims and that was why they attacked us,” he argued
A young widow, Amina Abdullahi said her husband was murdered by Atyap youth while grazing his cattle in the forest during the June 11 – 13 crisis which shook Angwan Gayia and different parts of Zangon Kataf.
Describing what happened, she said, “It was on a Thursday that we saw some armed young people moving to Zango town and we attempted to flee because we sensed that there will be trouble.
“Some of the youth advised us not to run because nothing was going to happen. We didn’t know they were deceiving us because they attacked us later and killed two people in our settlement and one of them was my husband.”
Corroborating the account by Zainab Yakubu, she said that in the heat of the crisis, the women gathered their children ran into the bush to hide.
As they were running, they met a man from the Atyap tribe and they started crying because they thought the man would hurt them and their children.
Fortunately, she said the man took pity of them and secretly took them to his home where they took refuge till nightfall.
“We owe our lives to one Zango man (names withheld) who met us in the bush while trying to escape and secretly took us to his house and hid us from the angry youth,” she recalled.
“He gave us water to drink and allowed us stay in his house till the night before he arranged for a vehicle to take us to Zango town.”
Amina was full of praises for the Atyap man who spared their lives and insisted they have been living peacefully with the people and would want to go back to Angwan Ganyi.
Asked how she is able to take care of herself and her children, she said most of them who were displaced from their homes now live on charity and begged the state government to come to their aid.
“We are suffering here and the government has not done much to help us. We now depend on other people to give us what to eat and that is not good.
“We want the government to restore peace so we can go back home and continue with our respective businesses,” she said.
Ayuba Salihu said he and his family were sacked from Zonzom town in Zangon Kataf on June 12 after a dispute between indigenous Hausa and Atyap persons resulted in a protest and destruction of property.
“Our people were not involved in the crisis but when the protest started, Atyap youth attacked Fulani communities,” he said, adding, “My uncle, Umar Kura, was advised not to run and that nothing will happen to him.
“He refused to run away with us but three days after everyone had escaped leaving him alone in the settlement, we started calling him and one Atyap youth picked the call and told us he was fine.
“We were later told that he was killed and his eyes and private part removed. His corpse was later handed over to the local vigilante for burial.”
According to him, it was one Gora Bobai, an Atyap man, who picked the call and told them his uncle, Mr. Kura was fine just for them to later learn he was decapitated.
“One of the vigilantes from Mashan village called to tell us that Umar Kura was killed. The name of the man who called us is Ayuba,” he told our correspondent.
Hussaini Umar said he has lived in Gora Sagwaza all his life and had related well with the people of the area.
But when a young man, who he said was not even of Atyap tribe was killed in a land dispute, youth mobilised and attacked Fulani settlements, killed people and destroyed properties.
According to him, Gora Sagwaza was deserted when news filtered in that four young boys from their community who were rearing cattle in the bush had come under a bloody attack.
“Four of our children who were rearing animals in the bush were attacked and three of them were killed but the fourth one escaped with injuries.
“It was when he came to tell us what happened that we hurriedly packed a few things we could and ran away,” he recounted.
According to him, his son, Abdullahi Huseni, the twin sons of his brother, Yusuf and Abubakar were killed in the bush.
“When we heard that they were killed in the bush, we all ran away. We have not been able to recover the corpses of our children but we have seen their raincoats and their sticks.
“We reported the matter to the police and the case is now before the state CID. However, they have not done anything about the killer of our children. We want justice for them,” he said.
Hasfat Adamu who was displaced from Angwan Ganyi lamented that her family lost everything during the crisis and blamed Atyap youth for what befell her and her family.
According to her, two of her husband’s junior brothers were murdered when Atyap youth invaded their settlement on June 11.
She said the two men were shot and butchered in the bush where they were tending to their animals.
“We fled empty handed to where we are taking refuge now and life is very difficult with us. All our stock of grains and food supply were burnt down and we now live at the mercy of other people,” she told our correspondent.
Asked if the state government has offered any assistance to her family and others who escaped the crisis, she said they got two measures of rice but added that majority of our people did not get anything.
“We are suffering and we plead with the government to assist us by ensuring that peace returns to our community.”
The writer is publisher of NextEdition.com.ng
This report was supported by THE WHISTLER Newspaper, Abuja (thewistler.ng).