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15 Southern Kaduna Leaders Detained 17 Days Without Trial Over Alleged Killing of Fulani Cows

…Detainees include an 85-year old man; a retired CP, who was detained in the past.

by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna

At least, fifteen Atyap Community leaders in Atyap Chiefdom of Zangon Kataf local government area of southern part of Kaduna State have been languishing in police detention for well over17 days without trial.

“Among them is a very sick 85-year old, 4 village heads and some youth leaders,” the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), the umbrella body of Southern Kaduna indigenes has decried.

Making the revelation in a statement issued Saturday by the union’s spokesman, Mr Luka Binniyat, SOKAPU stated that the detainees were tricked to a meeting by military officers of Operation Safe Haven on the 31st, March, 2021, at the Headquarters of Operation Safe Haven, close to Kafanchan in Jema’a LGA of Kaduna State.

“It is over 17 days today that, 15 Atyap Community leaders in Atyap Chiefdom, Zangon Kataf local government area (LGA) in southern part of Kaduna State have been detained without trial. Among them is a very sick 85-year old, 4 village heads and youth leaders.

“They were tricked to a meeting by military officers of Operation Safe Haven on the 31st March, 2021, at the Headquarters of Operation Safe Haven, close to Kafanchan, Jema’a LGA, Kaduna State. After spending four agonizing days of torture in the hands of the military, they were later transferred to the Kafanchan Police Area Command,” it stated.

“Again, they suffered brutal detention in the hands of the police between 3rd and 9th April, 2021, and were never arraigned before any court of law.

“These leaders, who had come on the invitation of the soldiers so that a way forward could be found over the incessant invasions, killings and arson of Atyap communities, were again transferred to Kaduna State Police Force Headquarters, where they are now held at the Kabala West Police Station, Kaduna, as tension continues to swell in Atyapland over the sufferings they are being subjected to.

“These men, who are now forcefully kept under unhygienic and inhuman conditions, have amongst them elderly persons that are sick and infirmed. The allegations against them, as SOKAPU was briefed by their lawyers, is that ‘they conspired, maimed and killed 75 cows (a figure that was later changed to 300 cows), belonging to Fulani.

“Of course, they have denied any involvement and regard to the allegation as trumped-up. Even at that, the offence of killing cows cannot be equated to homicide. It is bailable, as investigations go on. But the Kaduna State Police Command, with Governor Nasir el-Rufai as the Chief-Security-Officer of the state, would not allow these men get bail. 

“Among the detained Atyap community leaders are the following: Atyoli Ishaya Achi (Dakachin Zonzon Community); Atyoli Joseph Bitrus (Secretary to Dakachin Wawarafi); Atyoli Bitrus Adamu (Village Head of Ma’wakili); Atyoli Samaila Kazah (Village Head of Unguwan Tabo).

“Others are: Elder Waje La’ah (85 years and very ill), of Mabuhu Village; Atyoli Ayuba Dodo (Dakachin Mashan 1) and Peter Katung, a youth leader. 

“In the past nine months, the Atyap ethnic nationality, which is one of the biggest block of the 65 ethnic groups that form SOKAPU, has suffered severe destruction in property and has lost over 100 lives in the hands of killers that surviving victims clearly defined as armed Fulani militia, some of them known faces that had lived in their communities before suddenly moving out.

“It would be recalled that just last week (11th April, 2021) Wawarafi was attacked by Fulani militia and the following people were killed: Dauda Joshua, 54; Francis Ayuba, 30, including children – Philip Dauda, 8, and Florence Denis, 3. Part of the village was completely razed after it was looted. Not a single Fulani person or leader has been called for questioning.

“There is no month since July, 2020 that an Atyap Community is not under the invasion of armed Fulani militia, even as the Atyap traditional leadership has made several overtures to the Hausa and Fulani settlers on its land for the violence to stop. This is a gesture that even Governor el-Rufai acknowledges.

“But how comes that, no Fulani or Hausa leader in Atyapland has never been called for interrogation only for Atyap local leaders to be rounded up and locked up over allegations of involvement in the death of cattle?

“SOKAPU has reported that Fulani cattle have destroyed food crops on hundreds of hectares of Atyap farmlands, but the authorities just turned a blind eye to it. If anyone deserves justice and compensation in the violence that came over Atyapland, like in other parts of Southern Kaduna, it is the Atyap people.

“Recall that Governor Nasir el-Rufai in June, 2020, imposed a 24-hour curfew over Atyapland after the killing of a Christian youth outside Zangon Urban Town led to mass peaceful protest that turned violent after soldiers fired live bullets into the crowd, killing one person and injuring 9 Unguwan Wakili, near Zangon Kataf Town.

“Recall also that under that 24-hour rigidly enforced curfew, which was to last for over three months, Fulani militia, who are usually exempted from it, because of their nomadic way of living, took full advantage of it.

“On the 10th July, 2020, Chibob Village was attacked and the town razed to the ground after 9 persons were killed. The next day, Kigudu came under the fire of armed Fulani militia and 10 women, an elderly man and a baby were burnt alive. The village was looted dry. 

“The same cruelty continued on the 7th August, 2020. In a well coordinated attack that night, Apiako was invaded, leaving 7 persons killed; Ataka Mawai was also attacked and 10 persons were murdered.

“Kibori came under siege and 7 Atyap persons were brutally killed and the town burnt to the ground. They also attacked Magamiya Village and killed 4 persons. These are just a few of the killings that the Atyap have suffered in the hands of armed herdsmen, some of them known to the villagers.

“SOKAPU has never heard that an Ardo or Fulani leader in Atyapland has ever been questioned. But this is the pattern of ‘justice’ under the government of Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State. 

“It would be recalled that in 2016, in the renewed heat of the killings in Southern Kaduna by armed Fulani herdsmen, the Mr. Luka Garba, Village Head of one of the most ravaged communities (of Southern Kaduna), “Mile-1” in Goska District, Kaningkon Chiefdom, in Jema’a LGA, was arrested by the police and taken to Kaduna. 

“In a bizarre twist, when his boss, the District Head of Goska, Moses Barde, which  Mile-1 falls under, was also arrested and jailed when he went to see his detained subordinate.  No Fulani man or any of their leaders was invited for questioning. Yet the grizzly acts were carried out by their men.

“In 2017, the respectable and revered traditional ruler of the Kurama nation in Kauru LGA in Southern Kaduna, B’gwan Kurmi, Dr. Ishaku Sabo Damina, was arrested like a common criminal and slammed in Kaduna Prisons where he stayed for weeks before his was released on bail. His ‘offence’ was that he handed over a Fulani man suspected to be a notorious kidnapper in his domain to the military and the man later died under unclear circumstances. 

“In February, 2019, while Adaraland was suffering its worst invasions and killings in the hands of Fulani militia, 9 Adara leaders, including the Wazirin Adara (who the Adara regard as their interim traditional leader), Eng Bawa Magaji, Awemi Dio Maisamari, the National President of the powerful Adara Development Association (ADA ), including a retired Commissioner of Police, Sani Magaji, and 6 other respectable Adara leaders, were arrested and clamped in jail in Kaduna Prisons for alleged involvement in the violence against their own communities.

“After 120 days in prison, the police said that investigations found nothing that implicated them in the tragedy that was eating up their land.

“SOKAPU has to make the above reference for the world to see the kind of … two societies that have evolved in Kaduna State under the watch of Governor Nasir el-Rufai: One in which the victims are dragged for punishment and the other where the alleged perpetrators are protected, pampered and are unrepentant.

“While SOKAPU does not in any way support lawlessness in any form we, however, take exception when the law is only directed at the victims.

“We are, therefore, calling for the immediate release of these men to ease off the tension building up in Atyapland and among its neighbors. They should be given bail by the police or charged to court so that they can apply for bail. We are appealing to Atyap youths and those of their neighbours to remain calm, obey the law, while keeping vigilant over their communities,” the union states. 

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