The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Monday called for a halt in provocative statements over killings in southern Kaduna, urging the state government and other stakeholders to stop accusations and counter-accusations.
The Council of Ulama also called on Christians and Muslims in the state to work together to root out the criminal elements among them.
a land dispute in Zangon Kataf in June sparked the latest circle of violence that has rendered over a 100 dead and thousands displaced from their homes.
CAN President, Reverend Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, who paid a courtesy visit to Governor Nasir El-Rufai at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, Kaduna, called for a round table solution to the persistent killings in southern Kaduna.
“In view of the foregoing, we request sir, the following: A stop to accusations and counter-accusations between the government and other stakeholders over the killings in southern Kaduna, rather, a round table solution. Every provocative statement over the matter should be avoided,” he said.
Rev. Ayokunle implored the government to bring the killers who he said are variously referred to as “unknown gunmen” to book, arguing that the rate of prosecution so far has not been proportional to the frequency of attacks. He said the continuous crisis in southern Kaduna is being tagged “a religious or ethnic crisis” because it has lingered and given people room to say whatever they are saying.
“Whoever attacks first and whoever is doing reprisal are both criminals that must be made to face the wrath of the law,” he said.
The CAN president assured that the apex Christian body was ready to partner with the Kaduna State government and security agencies to end the crisis.
Responding, El- Rufai described as unfortunate that so many lives had been lost in a “totally unnecessary frenzy of communal attacks, reprisals and revenge,” and promised to consider the recommendations of Rev Ayokunle for implementation.
The governor pointed out that part of the false narrative on the history of the violent conflicts in southern Kaduna is the loose use of terms “like land-grabbing and genocide,” adding that the same terms are being used in the current circle of violence just as they were used in the violence of 2016/2017 and 2011/2015.
“While we mourn the dead, our immediate focus remains to stop the cycle of attacks and reprisals. We remain committed to ending the legacy of violence that has blighted the state for 40 years,” he added.
The governor challenged anyone to characterise or differentiate the communal clashes as well as attacks and killings in parts of northern and central Kaduna State, as well as in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Niger states from those in southern Kaduna.
“Is it because in all the other cases, the victims are lesser humans or lacking in voice and media hype? What happened to our common humanity?” he asked.
According to El-Rufai, his administration has stressed the need for communities to live in harmony and resolve to settle differences through lawful means as the only guarantee of peace.
“Some people do not want to hear this because it imposes responsibilities on individuals and community leaders to keep the peace and obey the law, but it is the civilised way to go,” he said.
Crisis persist because I stopped ‘brown envelop’ to S/Kaduna elite- Gov
At a different forum, the governor said past administrations of the state had paid monthly ‘peace monies’ to elites of southern Kaduna, which his administration stopped, adding that it was the reason elite from that area ‘‘churn up narratives that he was taking sides in the crisis’’.
El-Rufai said unlike past governments of the state, he would not appease the said elite and assured that he was using security agencies to accumulate enough evidence against them for prosecution.
Speaking on a live interview on Channels Television on Sunday, the governor, who was reacting to questions on allegations that he was taking sides in the crisis, said, “the problem of the southern Kaduna elite is that they have their own narrative and whether it is true or false, they stick to it, and anyone who has said something to the contrary has taken sides. Even among them. This is one of the problems that frustrated my former deputy governor, Arch. Barnabas Yusuf Bala, to throw in the towel, to say ‘I don’t want to be deputy governor, I will rather go and run for the senate’.
El-Rufai stressed that; “I will not appease criminals, I will not appease idle people who have nothing to do but to raise a spectre of genocide so that they can get donations and money in their bank accounts from abroad instead of standing up and having a profession and business to earn a living,”
He said because the elite had been living off government, they would consider anyone who is moderate or who promotes peaceful co-existence between various ethnic groups as a sell-out, adding that, “they cause trouble, they organise killings and then their leaders are invited by the governor and given brown envelope. That is what they have been doing for 20 years and we came into office and said no more’’.
Media underreporting killing of Muslims – Council of Ulamas
The Council of Imams and Ulamas in Kaduna State on Monday said over 100 Muslims had been killed and their properties destroyed in the latest circle of violence in Zangon Kataf, ‘‘which was deliberately not reported by the media’’.
The Secretary General of the council, Yusuf Yakubu Arrigasiyyu, while addressing a press conference in Kaduna said: “Right from the time of the killings till date, we have never read from any media a condolence message or show of solidarity from any part of this country sympathising with the families of the slain Muslim victims.”
He noted that the incident was not reported by any media outfit including those who were “mischievously propagating the reprisal attacks against the Christian communities in the area.”
“Criminal elements of Southern Kaduna find it fascinating to mercilessly kill indigenous Muslim neighbours at will including passers-by travelling along such areas without being arrested or sanctioned by government or any security agent,” he said.
Arrigasiyyu alleged that the killings are being covered up by certain media outfits that prefer to change the narrative.
“The media are known to be truthful in their investigations and balanced in their reporting, unfortunately, some of the Nigerian local media prefer to part with the truth, justice and good consciousness,” he said.
He called on peace loving Christians and Muslims in Southern Kaduna and Nigeria at large to engage the criminal elements among them with a view to desist from wanton killings and destruction of their neighbours property for peace to reign permanently.