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Kaduna: Atyap community protests persistent attacks, killings, biased security reports

…Says, 5yr-old beheaded, 70 others killed.

…Indicts Sector Commander of “taking sides.”

by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna

Atyab Natives protest persistent attacks, killings in Samaru Kataf, Monday

Atyap Community Development Association (ACDA), in Zangon-Kataf LGA of Southern Kaduna, on Monday staged a peaceful protest in Samaru Kataf, against what the association described as “persistent attacks and killings of members in their land” in Kaduna State.

The association also protested the alleged biased security reports presented to the State Government in April 19th 2023, by the Sector Commander of Operation Safe Haven, Brigadier-General Timothy Opurum, on Southern Kaduna.

In a protest speech presented at the end of the peaceful protest, the association’s President, Samuel T. Achi, expressed regret over what he termed as “selective killings of defenseless communities in Atyapland, since 2017, before the sustained attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen in 2020.”

Tagged: ‘World Press Conference by ACDA,’ the President noted that Atyapland has dominated news headlines for the wrong reasons, following renewed attacks in Ungwan Wakili, Lagson, Atakjei and Runji, where 70 people were killed recently, including a 5-year old boy, who was beheaded. 

“As at the last count, 20 villages have been displaced, 18 villages burnt down, while 518 people killed with thousands of victims, who have taken refuge across many communities from 2017 till date.

“It is with regret that we are addressing Nigerians and the international communities at large, on the persistent and recurring attacks and killings in some communities of Atyapland of Zangon Kataf Local Government of Kaduna State by armed Fulani herdsmen, who have enjoyed decades of peaceful coexistence with our communities, but have now set out on a mission to displace these communities and take over the lands.

“It is regrettable to state, for the records, that defenseless communities in Atyapland have been suffering selective killings of Atyap since 2017 before the sustained attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen, in 2020.

“Recently, Atyapland has dominated the headlines for the wrong reasons, following renewed attacks in Ungwan Wakili, Lagson, Atakjei and Runji where 70 people have been killed, including a 5-year old boy, who was beheaded. 

“As at the last count, 20 villages have been displaced, 18 villages burnt down, while 518 people killed with thousands of victims who have taken refuge across many communities from 2017 till date,” he said.

According to ACDA, the military personnel drafted to provide security in the area did not help matters, saying, “They took sides. Instead of performing their primary assignment of securing all lives and property of the communities, they are selective by taking sides with the herdsmen. 

“This is evident in the 2023 First Quarter Security Report presented to the Kaduna State Government by the Sector Commander, Operation Safe Haven, in Southern Kaduna, Brigadier-General Timothy Opurum, on the recent killings in Atyapland. 

“In his doctored submission, the Sector Commander gave an unbalanced, lopsided report and was very economical with facts, which prompted the governor to note with concern the continued failure of the traditional and community leaders in Zangon Kataf Chiefdom to prevent resort to self-help by recalcitrant youths, and assure you that we will take some actions to send a message in this regard,” he added.

Comrade Achie said, “For the avoidance of doubt and to put things in proper perspectives, ACDA has straightened the records on some of the issues raised in Brigadier-General Opurum’s reports.

“General Timothy Opurum, ACDA noted, deliberately failed, neglected and/or refused to highlight the contributions of the Traditional Council in Atyapland towards maintaining peace in the Chiefdom – which facts are known to him and other security agencies in the area.

“The report did not convey the positive role played so far by the Traditional Council and other community leaders in dissipating the conflicts, including visiting all homes of victims of attacks and killings in Atyapland.

“Others include sponsoring of conferences/workshops on peaceful co-existence for Atyap, Hausa and Fulani youth, women and security operatives in Atyapland with the Kaduna State Hon. Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs,.

“Also included in peace process are international and national peace advocates like Dr. Salim Musa, Barr. Priscilla Ankut, to mention but a few, in full attendance.

“Also in collaboration with the Kaduna State Peace Commission on several peace advocacy missions to Atyap, Hausa and Fulani youth and women groups in Atyapland, ensuring the permanent removal of all road blocks by youths in Atyapland.

“The setting-up and funding of the Atyap Chiefdom Peace, Security and Partnership Committee made up of Atyap, Hausa and Fulani youths and women, provision of logistic and human support to operatives of Operation Safe Haven, Police and State Security Service, among others.”

While ACDA alleged that, Kaduna governor had commended Agwatyap for their bold steps taken in some national dailies, Brig-Gen. Opurum deliberately refused to see and state the known facts that the influx of many dangerous lawless Fulani terrorists into Zangon Kataf Urban Hausa settlement and their attendant criminal activities in the last 3 years was responsible for the brutal attacks on mostly innocent and defenseless women and children in Atyap villages. 

“It is a known fact among security agencies in our Atyapland that most attacks on our villages and people are planned and coordinated by these Fulani terrorists in Zangon Kataf Urban Hausa settlement. However, for reasons best known to him, the Sector Commander instead of calling a spade a spade chose to dwell on unproven allegation of ‘cow poisoning’ by unidentified alleged Atyap persons and places, in order to blackmail the Atyap and appease his pay masters.

“The Sector Commander’s presentation consciously ignored the fact that it is only in Zangon Kataf Urban Hausa settlement that lawless and dangerous Fulani migrant terrorists are harbored by their Hausa host in Zangon Kataf LGA with their attendant criminal activities spreading to our villages as the major reason attacks are predominantly in our Chiefdom,” it stated.

The association called on Governor el-Rufai and security agencies to direct and ensure the evacuation of these migrant terrorists Fulani to wherever they came from, as was done with Almajiris, and this attacks in Atyapland will be a thing of the past. 

“This is the practice in an exclusively Fulani settlement of Laduga, in Zangon Kataf of Kaduna State. Why this has not happened so far beats our imagination, and we wonder what the Federal and State Governments seek to achieve by not ordering this. Could this be a confirmation of a planned genocide on Atyap race?

“The Sector Commander raised the issue of the killing of a young Fulani boy in Ungwan Juju [Ma Juju], which was highly condemned by all of us in the Chiefdom. His Highness, the ACDA and the District Head of the area met, condoled the parents of the boy and pleaded with the Fulani not to attack innocent people in the guise of ‘vengeance,’ as everything was to be done to fish out the perpetrators of the dastardly act. 

“The world should note that the Brigadier-General knows that before the unfortunate and criminal killing of that boy, Samaila Jacob was murdered on the 15/02/2023 and Musa Bako in the same month from tren enanthate cycle considerations the same Ung. Juju by some Fulani. In fact, his men were part of the people that evacuated the corpses.

“Why were these gruesome murders not reported by the Sector Commander in his report? We do not understand why the Sector Commander opted to be economical with the fact in Ung. Juju.

“The Sector Commander alleged that the poisoning of over 70 cows was responsible for the renewed attacks, killing and burning of Atyap and their property by Fulani. This came to us as a surprise because he knows of a standing agreement in Atyapland that any proven case of cow poisoning against any community, such community shall be responsible for replacing such cows. 

“In the same coin, the owner of any cows that destroys any farm shall bear full responsibility for such destruction. With this agreement, it was mischief of the highest order at work when the Brig-General justified the murder, killing and burning of innocent and armless Atyap women, children and men and their property on the basis of false allegations of ‘cow poisoning.’

“Furthermore, the cattle allegedly poisoned were from Zangon Kataf Urban settlement only, while those of the Fulani living in our villages are not affected. It will interest the world to know that it is the Hausa in Zangon Kataf Urban settlement that engage in dry season farming and the Fulani cattle are fond of destroying their farms around the river.

“One particular case in question around the General Hospital, Zangon Kataf, is where 7 cows ate spinach (Alehu) from a Hausa farm and died but was alleged that it was Kataf people that did that.

“The Sector Commander was not saying the truth when he reported that the killings in Ung. Wakili were at the outskirt of the village. In fact, the killings were carried out right inside their homes neighboring the security post at Ung. Wakili. 

“The discovering of blood-stained military uniforms and suspected military personnel involvement prompted a meeting between the Zangon Kataf Local Government Council Chairman, the Traditional Council and the Military Command from Jos, which led to the immediate transfer of two suspected military personnel. This is a confirmation that Brig-Gen. Opurum has compromised the security in Atyapland.

“It is also surprising for the Brig-General to say that the attack in Runji (Sankwab) was due to the hostility of the youths from the area. However, he ignored to report that 3 days before the Runji attack, a man by name Sunday Ibrahim Takaichi was attacked and killed by the same Fulani grazing in Runji. On sighting the villagers coming to give a helping hand, they ran away leaving their cattle. 

“The cattle were evacuated by the soldiers to aid their investigation of the murder of Sunday. It is most unfortunate that the outcome of this investigation was not reported by the Sector Commander till date,” the leader stated.

In conclusion, ACDA said, “We believe the governor was misled by the biased, shallow and lopsided briefing of the out-going Sector Commander. However, our balanced and objective narration, laced with logical facts as they occurred above, clearly shows that the traditional rulership and community leaders in Atyapland are working very hard to maintain peace. 

“His Excellency, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, while receiving the Communiqué of one of the Peace Summits from the Agwatyap and other noble peace initiatives being put in place by him towards sustainable peace building in Atyapland, on 25th August 2020 in Government House, said:

Our government commends the resolve by the communities to respect the right of any citizens to live in peace within the Atyap Chiefdom and applauds the resolution to settle disputes through lawful processes and institutions.

“The governor also ‘called on every person of goodwill to support the Atyap Chiefdom’s strong efforts to bring its communities together and stop the bloodshed and destruction of property,’ noting that “What the communities and leadership of Atyap Chiefdom have started is the type of grassroots ownership of the responsibility for peace and harmony that the government has advocated, which initiative is more beyond the deployment of police and military forces.”

“We have no option than to believe that it is the biased report of Brigadier-General Opurum that made His Excellency to suddenly change gear. 

“This notwithstanding, our outgoing governor should know that, as the Chief Security Officer of Kaduna State – which includes Atyapland – he has the duty to secure lives and property of residents of the State. He should, therefore, not transfer his failure to secure lives and property to traditional rulers in the State. His Excellency cannot abdicate his responsibilities. 

“We hereby call on the attention of the world and people of goodwill to know that the systematic attacks, killings and burning going on in Atyap by armed militias with the collaboration of the local Fulani, aided and sheltered by the Hausa community in Zangon Urban, is all aimed at taking over our land, which we shall resist with the last drop of our blood.

“We call on our people to exercise their natural, fundamental and constitutional right of self-defence against any further unprovoked attacks. Enough is enough. We also want to make it very clear that, henceforth, any attack on any of our communities will attract a total no-go-area for rearing cows.

“Finally, we call on the incoming administration to strive to ensure inclusive governance and improve security and development in Atyapland and many other areas ravaged by killings in the state. We are still hopeful that, one day, we will still live together with our brothers – the Hausa and the Fulani – in our land, as it has always been,” they said.

Also speaking, the Zangon Kataf LGA chairman, Francis Sani, appealed to the State Government to do everything humanly possible to end the hostilities in the Atyabland and other areas in the state.

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