By MUHAMMAD SABIU, Kaduna
Accusation and counter accusation on Friday trailed the massive killings said to be going on in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, with the two groups at the centre of the carnage, the Fulani and the Atyap people, engaging in a war of words, each party blaming the other for the devastations being done to lives and property in the area.
While the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) accused the Fulani of killing the people of Atyap extraction and burning down their houses and churches, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Kaduna chapter, alleged that the Atyap engaged in the killing of defenceless Fulani herdsmen and members of their families.
The two groups made their claims known in separate statements on Friday. SOKAPU, in a statement by its spokesman, Luka Binniyat, said:
“For the seventh day running, the nightly siege on Atyap community has continued with the death toll, number of churches and homes burnt rising.
“On 13th July 2021, two persons were killed as armed Fulani herdsmen invaded Magata and Magori villages in Atyap Chiefdom, Zangon Kataf Local Government Area (LGA) in Southern Kaduna.
“The father and son were killed in Magata where the assailants also burnt eight homes and the Catholic church in the village. The attackers then moved to the next village, Magori, but met a deserted place.
“They took their time, looted the village and loaded their bounty into the five Hilux vans they were driving in and burnt down all the 19 houses in the small village. The attackers then returned to Makarau that was attacked on Monday and burnt down the ECWA and Anglican churches whose two pastoruims were burnt in last Monday afternoon’s attacks.
“Our members of the Adamawa ethnic nationalities who settled in an Atyap community called Badawa, a remote farming community close to the banks of River Kaduna, under Gora ward, have reported that five of their kinsmen were killed, 12 homes were destroyed and 45 cows rustled on 11th July 2021 after they were attacked by armed herdsmen.
“This brings to 40 the number of persons killed, 254 homes and seven churches burnt in unbroken and unrestrained violence unleashed on poor, armless innocent farmers in Atyap Chiefdom by armed herdsmen in the past seven days.
“We have received information that the attackers are bragging that Atyap land and the entire Southern Kaduna belong to them and as such if our members would not leave, they would use terror and chase them out.
“Currently, 108 Southern Kaduna communities are under the occupation of armed herdsmen invaders, some dating back to 2019.
“Another dimension to the wickedness on Atyap land is that in every community attacked, the invaders took time to cut down swaths of fields of growing crops. The intention is to see that survivors starve if they ever return.
“Women, children, the aged and infirmed are now moving out in droves in Atyap villages, some on foot carrying what they can salvage to wherever they may find refuge.”
But MACBAN, in a counter-statement, accused SOKAPU of resorting to blackmail against Fulani people who, it said, were forced to scamper to safety after their households were burnt. The association, in a statement by its chairman in Kaduna, Alhaji Haruna Usman Tugga, said:
“We are all aware, violent conflicts have been ongoing in many of the villages in Atyap Chiefdom of Zangon Kataf Local Government.
“Based on the information available to our association, what triggered the present round of disturbances emanated from the attack on a family by unknown bandits in Gora Gan village in the chiefdom on 7th July 2021.
“As is characteristic of the misinformed youths who are indoctrinated to hate the Fulani pastoralists, attack on cattle rearers followed the unfortunate event.
“While security agencies moved swiftly to contain the violence around Gora Gan and adjoining villages, there was the mobilisation of Atyap youths by some ethnic chauvinists among the Atyap ethnic community and other non-peace loving organisations that resulted in attacks on Fulani settlements throughout the chiefdom.
“Within a few days, all the houses of the Fulani in the chiefdom were burnt by mobs in broad daylight.
“In addition to the burning of settlements, an unconfirmed number of Fulani pastoralists were also killed. As a consequence, the surviving victims of the arson are now internally displaced and scattered around in neighbouring local governments of Kaura, Kauru, Lere, Jema’a and Kachia.
“Due to the nature of attacks and displacement of the Fulani people, we are yet to ascertain the total number of people killed, even though there are confirmed reports of the killing of 16 persons, mostly women and children. Over 300 houses belonging to the Fulani were reportedly burnt to ashes in the different villages of the chiefdom.
“Not only were our people and houses targeted, but cattle belonging to the Fulani also were not spared. There are reports of the killing of many cows, the number of which is yet to be determined because of the tense security situation in the area.
“Additionally, thousands of cows were abandoned by the fleeing cattle owners, which exposed the animals to the danger of rustling.
“This is the situation at the moment in those affected areas. The Fulani pastoralists are at disarray, at the mercy of God, with no support from any quarters. Their livelihoods and habitation have been totally destroyed.
“It is against this background that we found a press statement issued by the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) most surprising. We are shocked on the sources of their information, and for resorting to total blackmail against the victims of aggression.
“We appeal to media organisations to be impartial and to listen to all sides, visit the scenes across the divides and speak to people on all sides to provide Nigerians with accurate accounts of what is happening in the affected areas.
“What is most needed at this stage from SOKAPU and all other stakeholders is partnership and cooperation that will lead to durable peace and social harmony.” (Saturday Tribune)