SEGUN OLATUNJI writes that the spate of midnight killings in Kaduna State has become a major challenge to the state government

Although the tension generated by the last April post-presidential election violence in Kaduna, in April and other parts of Northern states may have eased out, fresh fears have gripped the people of Southern Kaduna over the recent upsurge in the secret killing of their kinsmen by yet-to-be-identified persons.

Between July and September, four different attacks were carried out on villages in that part of Kaduna by gunmen, leaving a at least five persons dead and scores of others seriously injured.

On July 24 this year, a gang suspected to be from Niger Republic carried out a dawn attack on Angwan Yaro and Yuli villages in Kussom District of Jema’a Local Government Area. Although the police dismissed them as mere rumour Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Jema’a, Rev. Joe Yari, however, insisted that the villages were actually attacked.

As the heat was simmering, another attack was carried out by gunmen numbering about 10 in the early hours of August 21 on the household of the district head of Fadiya Bakut in Bajju District of Zango Kataf. In this attack, two persons were killed while others escaped death with serious injuries.

Also, on the eve of the last Eid-el-Kabir celebrations, unknown persons set the Kafanchan market ablaze at about 2 am. But for the swift intervention of the soldiers drafted to maintain security in the area, the incident would have sparked off another crisis.

Early in September, another Southern Kaduna community became victim of night marauders. In fact, that night may, for a long time, remain the darkest in the lives of the people of the sleepy village of Angwa Rana Bitaro in Jaba Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

A group of heavily armed marauders stormed the community at about 12 midnight, killing three members of a family and seriously injuring many others.

And when the people thought they were having a relief from the night marauders, another gang raided Tabak village near Zonkwa in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of the state, killing two persons and injuring 14 others at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

An eyewitness, who pleaded anonymity, claimed that some of the assailants stormed the village through the internationally recognised cattle grazing route traversing the area while the others headed for the catholic Church, where they opened fire on the worshippers who were having a vigil.

During the governor’s visit to the scene of the incident, hundreds of protesting women and youths of the area held him hostage for over an hour.

The protesters, who chanted anti-government songs, said the state government had failed to protect them against attacks from the assailants, who had formed the habit of launching attacks on them at night.

Some youth leaders in the area eventually prevailed on the protesters to let the governor, who was in company with the General Officer Commanding, One Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Maj.-Gen. Joseph Shoboiki, and the Director of the Kaduna State Command of the State Security Service, Mr. Yomi Zamba, visit the injured victims in the hospital.

In spite of the crisis generated by the latest killings, the night marauders were not done yet as they struck again on friday night in nearby Kurmi Bi village near Zonkwa in the same Zango Kataf LGA, The shot one person dead and injured another behind the palace of the traditional ruler of the area, Agwam Bajju.

The State Police Commissioner, Mr. Ballah Nasarawa, however, said his command had already arrested eight persons suspected to have participated in the attack on Angwa Rana Bitaro penultimate Saturday night.

Nasarawa added that two survivors of the attack had identified the suspects.

He, however, declined to give further details on the suspects, saying they would be charged to court as soon as investigations were concluded.

But the CAN chapter in the state is not satisfied with the action taken so far by the police on the rising wave of killings in the southern part of the state.

CAN said it was deeply troubled by the confession of some of the suspects arrested recently at an alleged terrorists’ training camp in Bauchi State.

The suspects had told the police in Bauchi that they were training in the camp in preparation for a reprisal attack on some communities in Southern Kaduna before they were arrested.

The Secretary of CAN in Kaduna State, Rev. Yunusa Nmadu, called on security agencies and the state government to ensure that all those involved in the reprisals and secret killings in the state were apprehended and prosecuted accordingly.

He said, “The Christian Association of Nigeria, Kaduna State chapter, is troubled at the spate of insecurity and serial killings being perpetrated by unknown persons in the state.

“The discovery of a purported terrorists’ camp in Toro, Bauchi State, at the weekend is of great concern, particularly with the confessions made by the suspects, who said after their trainings, Southern Kaduna was their final destination of attack.

“It is against this development that CAN wishes to categorically state its positions as follows: That security agencies and the Kaduna State Government must swing into action and unravel the whole issues regarding serial attacks in the state, and as well bring to book all those involved in organising the killings and their sponsors. Our take is based on the confessions of the suspects arrested in Bauchi State.

“Our commitment to peace and stability is non-negotiable and we are standing by all the resolutions, and in appreciation of the importance of unity and national integration.”

CAN said that it was unthinkable that nocturnal attacks had become commonplace in the southern part of the state, where since April, police and military checkpoints had been set up and unofficial curfew imposed on the residents.

To underscore the political undertone in the crisis, some youths in the area have been pointing accusing fingers at the Fulani herdsmen for the incessant attacks on the people of the area.

The youth leaders, who pleaded anonymity, blamed the state government and security agents for the attacks.

They claimed that the attacks were a revenge mission by the Hausa/Fulani, who still felt aggrieved about their losses and expulsion from several parts of the area during the last April post-presidential election violence.

They further alleged that the escalating violence in the area was a manifestation of the plans by the political enemies of the governor to make the state ungovernable for him, and portray him as incapable of handling the affairs of the state.

But the state chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria has said that Governor Patrick Yakowa has lost grip on the running of the state following the rising wave of insecurity.

The opposition party has, therefore, called on the governor to immediately resign from office and allow a competent person to take over the affairs of the state.

The state ACN Publicity Secretary, Mordecai Ibrahim, in a statement, argued that if the state government was serious about the security of lives and property of its citizens, the recent arrest of Kaduna-bound suspected terrorists in Bauchi State by the police would have served as a lesson to the government to avert the recent attacks in the state by unknown assailants.

The ACN claimed that recently, there were security reports advising the government to tighten security around the Internationally Recognised Grazing Fields traversing parts of Kaduna State and which have very thick forest boundaries with Plateau and Bauchi States.

The party alleged that the government turned deaf ears to the advice contained in the security reports.

It said, “Governor (Patrick) Yakowa should therefore be told in clear terms that he should brace up for the challenges, face and provide good governance as well as ensure the security of lives and property of Kaduna State citizens or resign and go home.

“This government must be blamed for all that has befallen the state. It is worthy of note that a serious and security conscious government should, as a matter of necessity and priority, immediately establish watch points across those areas. The truth is that for almost five months since the escalation of insecurity in the state, there was no point in time that the areas were not considered potent threats, but the government has continued to exhibit negligence.

“If the state government were serious about the security of lives and property of its citizens, the discovery of Kaduna-bound alleged terrorists in Bauchi State by men of the Bauchi State Police Command would have served as a lesson, but it was ignored, hence the blood bath.

“After the elections, tribunals were set up to address all political grievances arising from the polls. Meanwhile, anybody or group of persons that have any strong feelings and evidence for prosecution that could secure conviction should have, as peace loving Nigerians, gone to the court of law to seek redress and not to resort to unleashing violence on innocent and law-abiding citizens of the state. Unleashing violence on the people amounts to taking the laws into their hands. We, therefore, call on those responsible for these senseless acts to embrace peace so that we can have room for development.”

But in a swift reaction, the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Reuben Buhari, said, “It is a pity that the ACN in Kaduna State is bent on inciting the good people of the state against the government with falsehood and pure mischief. But the state government remains resolutely focused in its desire to transform Kaduna State.

“By calling on the governor to resign, the ACN is exhibiting its level of ignorance on how government works. Let them know that he (Yakowa) will not resign. If they knew the efforts the state has been making in trying to prevent these crises, they would have rather commended him and all the security agencies in the state.”