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Opinion: How El-Rufai’s statement instigated Kajuru crisis in Southern Kaduna

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Governor Nasir El-rufai
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By Shadrach Bako

On Friday, February 15, 2019, El Rufai said that 66 Fulani herders in eight settlements in Kajuru Local Government of Kaduna State had been killed the previous week after a meeting with officials of the International Republican Institute of the US who visited him in Kaduna.

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During a press briefing at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, he said, “just yesterday, I got a report of the killing of about 66 Fulani at Maro in Kajuru Local Government. I think this is deliberately designed to cause a reprisal and destabilize the local government during elections.” Hours later, the governor’s media aide, Samuel Aruwan (a son of Southern Kaduna soil – now Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs), issued a statement giving details of these killings thus:

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“Security agencies today (Friday) reported the recovery of 66 bodies that were killed in attacks by criminal elements on various dispersed hamlets in the Maro Gida and Iri axis of Kajuru LGA. adsbygoogle || []).push({});

“The settlements affected include Ruga Bahago, Ruga Daku, Ruga Ori, Ruga Haruna, Ruga Yukka Abubakar, Ruga Duni Kadiri, Ruga Shewuka and Ruga Shuaibu Yau.”

The governor’s spokesperson said among the victims were 22 children and 12 women while four wounded persons “rescued by the security agencies are now receiving medical attention.”

Curiously, the Violent Incidents and Election Atrocity Fusion Centre (VIAFUC) for #NigeriaDecides2019 said in a statement that it contacted residents and community leaders of Kajuru and “trawled all possible sources and sent in two additional fact finders to verify these claims’ and concluded that “sadly, the alleged attack and killings claimed by the Governor did not occur.”

VIAFUC also accused the governor of “deliberate falsehood” capable of setting ablaze a fragile neighbourhood and of compromising the smooth running of election operations and of the safety of all involved in the elections.”

The Adara community, in a statement, also described the comment by the Kaduna State Government as “deliberate lies being manufactured against us as a people by the governor of Kaduna state, Malam Nasir el-Rufai.”

“The governor went ahead to list the number of villages that were attacked but deliberately excluded Ungwan Barde where our people were killed. He also gave the gender statistics of those allegedly killed and the tribe of the victims but again mischievously left out the 11 Adara people who were killed.”

On February 19, 2019, El-Rufai said that contrary to his initial claim that 66 Fulanis had been killed in Kajuru, that the actual number of Fulanis who were killed in Kujuru Local Government Area stood at 130.

Addressing State House correspondents after an emergency security meeting summoned by President Muhammadu Buhari a day before, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, El-Rufai said: “Now, what we are hearing, the last report we got is that over 130 people were killed not even 66.

“I think that anybody that is still questioning whether these attacks took place or not is being grossly irresponsible. I think as the governor of the state, everyone knows me and my records of public service. I would not be irresponsible enough to stand before the media and say something has happened that has not happened. I don’t work based on telephone calls or rumours.

“As governor of the state, the first thing I receive every morning is a security briefing on what happens in the last 24 hours. That is the first thing I read and I ask questions and I work on the basis of security briefings from the experts, the garrison commander, the commissioner of police, the head of the air force. We have every security agency in Kaduna State and they send me briefings, including the Directorate of State Services (DSS). I work only on that basis.”

The governor said anybody that wanted to contradict his claim should have superior information “and it is impossible for you other than the president of the country to have superior information than I have about my state.”

According to him, there is a prevailing narrative in the nation’s media that only certain lives are more important than others.

“We see that clearly in the slant of reporting and the denial. The fact that you are still asking me these questions two days after we have proved all doubts of all those people claiming that this didn’t happen, show the truth in what I am saying. They first said I lied, that it didn’t happen, then they started saying, no, the numbers are not what they are.

“And now, what we are hearing, the last report we got is that, over 130 people were killed not even 66. And the Fulani leaders are providing the names of all these people, we have the list and we will release it to the press,” he said.

El-Rufai was joined during the press briefing by the governor of Adamawa State, Mohammed Bindo, his Borno State counterpart, Kashim Shettima, and the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina.

He said the Fulani leaders had indicated willingness to provide the full list of those killed in the attack to the government.

El-Rufai said his government was ready to make public the pictures of the victims and footages of how the army had to be there to help bury the dead two days after they were killed because their bodies were decomposing.

He told reporters that during the meeting with President Buhari, he requested more military presence during the rescheduled election on February 23 and March 9 in the state.

“In Kaduna State, we requested enhanced military presence in particular locations that are affected by rural banditry, these are Birnin-Gwari and Giwa Angchukwu local government areas where there has been a history of either electoral violence or ethno-religious intolerance.”

According to El-Rufai, the state government had mapped out local arrangements with the garrison commander and the commissioner of police to ensure that every resident of Kaduna State will be free to vote in an atmosphere of peace and security, in the last elections.

The governor also explained that the previous day’s meeting between President Buhari and the heads of security agencies focused on the states that have higher than average security challenges. He said governors of four states of Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, and Kaduna were invited.

He said the northeast states were discussed because of the of Boko Haram insurgency, while Kaduna was invited because of the recent crisis affecting parts of the state.

Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Abdulrahman, said 11 suspects have been arrested in connection with the killings.

“We intended prosecuting those arrested today (Tuesday), but as I am talking to you now, we are making more arrests. While on the road coming here this morning, I had eight people arrested. As I am talking, we got additional three so, we have to go beyond the eight people and more facts are coming out as a result of intelligence that we are gathering.”

Although findings by Daily Trust which involved speaking to various stakeholders that included security agencies and survivors of the attacks revealed that the attack on the eight Fulani settlements took place and about 66 people or even more were murdered.

Same report also revealed that there were killings before that of 66 Fulanis. The Adara community said there was an attack on Ungwan Barde on Sunday 10 February 2019 by suspected Fulani gunmen where 11 people were killed.

Daily Trust investigations uncovered a series of violence in the Kajuru area, mostly between the Adara and Fulanis.

For instance, on Monday 11 February 2019, at about noon, security reported that there was a raid targeting a family at Sabon Tasha village in Kajuru LGA leading to the killing of four persons.

The attack, according to security reports obtained by Daily Trust, took place between 10 pm and 11 pm on the night of Sunday 10 February 2019. The assailants were said to be suspected bandits.

However, at about 5.30pm on the same Monday 11 February 2019, there was another report that a number of pastoralists were seen fleeing from villages around Iri and Maro and seeking refuge around Kasuwan Magani and Katul Crossing in Kachia Local government area, apparently due to the fear of reprisal attacks.

By the morning of Tuesday 12 February 2019, it was clear that several households of pastoralists were affected by violence. The matter was reported to security agencies. By noon of same day Tuesday 12 February, the military deployed its personnel to intervene. The soldiers mobilized to the affected areas and by evening, they rescued fleeing persons to safety and evacuated some wounded persons to receive medical attention.

From Wednesday 13 to Friday 15 February, military personnel combed up the affected villages and bushes in the general area around Iri, Maro and other settlements.

By this, it was correct to say that there were killings before the killing of 66 Fulanis. This is because there are precedents. As recent as 2018, a clash occurred between the Hausa community and the Adara youth at Kasuwan Magani where Adara youth were allegedly attacked, the Adara youth mobilized to get back at members of the community.

What governor El’Rufai deliberately concealed from the public was that there had been series of unprovoked attacks against the Adara people in Kajuru local government – preceding the killing of 66 Fulanis, which his government turned a blind eye to.

Why was El-Rufai slow to act when Adara people were being killed and swift to react; to send in the army to quell tension; to send in buses to evacuate Fulanis from the region and comb villagers’ homes for arms and ammunitions?

Does he not receive security briefings of Southern Kaduna people being killed by Fulani terrorists? Why has not a single Fulani been arrested and tried in connection with these killings?

When Fulanis are attacked, El-Rufai is ever ready to list the number of villages in which the attacks took place, he is ready to give gender statistics of those allegedly killed, he is ready to “request enhanced military presence” to protect Fulani lives and property, he is ready “to make public the pictures of the victims and footages of how the army had to be there to help bury the dead victims” but mysteriously goes MIA when Adara people are being killed and communities in Southern Kaduna are being attacked by his tribesmen.

For those wondering whether these mindless killings has a history, here’s an insight according to none other than Governor El-Rufai himself.

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