Accusations and counter-accusations accompanied the alleged mass killings in Kaduna State’s Zangon Kataf Local Government Area on Friday, with the two groups at the centre of the carnage, the Fulani and the Atyap people, engaging in a war of words, each blaming the other for the destruction of lives and property in the area.
While the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) accused the Fulani of assassinating Atyap people and torching their homes and churches, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Kaduna chapter, claimed that the Atyap killed defenceless Fulani herders and their families.
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On Friday, the two groups issued separate statements stating their assertions. “For the seventh day running, the nightly siege on Atyap community has continued with the death toll, number of churches and homes burned rising,” SOKAPU spokeswoman Luka Binniyat said in a statement. Armed Fulani herders attacked Magata and Magori villages in Atyap Chiefdom, Zangon Kataf Local Government Area (LGA) in Southern Kaduna on July 13, 2021, killing two people.
“The father and son were killed in Magata, where the attackers also set fire to eight homes and the village’s Catholic church. The assailants then proceeded to the next settlement, Magori, where they encountered a deserted area. They took their time looting the town, loading their booty into the five Hilux vans they were driving in, and setting fire to all 19 of the village’s homes.
The assailants then returned to Makarau, which had been attacked on Monday, and set fire to the ECWA and Anglican churches, as well as two pastoruims, which had been set ablaze in the attacks on Monday afternoon.
“On the 11th of July 2021, our members of the Adamawa ethnic nationalities who settled in an Atyap community called Badawa, a remote farming community close to the banks of the River Kaduna, under Gora ward, reported that five of their kin were killed, 12 homes were destroyed, and 45 cows were rustled after they were attacked by armed herdsmen.
“In the past seven days, armed herdsmen in Atyap Chiefdom have slaughtered 40 people, burned 254 homes, and destroyed seven churches in an unbroken and unfettered carnage unleashed on impoverished, helpless innocent farmers.
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We have got information that the assailants are boasting that they own Atyap territory and all of Southern Kaduna, and that if our members do not leave, they will use fear to chase them out.
Currently, armed herdsmen invaders are occupying 108 communities in Southern Kaduna, some of which date back to 2019.
“Another aspect of the evil on Atyap territory is that the invaders took time to cut down expanses of fields of growing crops in every town targeted. If survivors ever return, the goal is for them to starve. “Women, children, the elderly, and the infirm are now fleeing Atyap villages in droves, some on foot, carrying whatever they can rescue to wherever they may find refuge.”
MACBAN responds In a counter-statement, MACBAN accused SOKAPU of using blackmail against Fulani people who, it claimed, were forced to flee their homes after they were set on fire. “We are all aware, violent confrontations have been occurring in many of the communities in Atyap Chiefdom of Zangon Kataf Local Government,” the group stated in a statement issued in Kaduna by its chairman, Alhaji Haruna Usman Tugga.
“According to the evidence accessible to our association, the current wave of disruptions was sparked by an unknown bandit attack on a household in Gora Gan hamlet in the chiefdom on July 7, 2021.
The terrible episode was followed by an attack on cattle rearers, as is typical of ignorant adolescents who have been trained to despise Fulani pastoralists.
“While security authorities moved quickly to suppress the violence in Gora Gan and other villages, some ethnic chauvinists in the Atyap ethnic community and other non-peace loving organisations mobilised Atyap youths, resulting in attacks on Fulani settlements across the chiefdom.
All of the Fulani houses in the chiefdom were set on fire by crowds in broad daylight within a few days.
“An unconfirmed number of Fulani pastoralists were also killed, in addition to the burning of communities. As a result, the surviving arson victims have been internally relocated and are now dispersed throughout the neighbouring local governments of Kaura, Kauru, Lere, Jema’a, and Kachia.
“Due to the nature of the Fulani people’s attacks and displacement, we have yet to determine the total number of people killed, despite confirmed reports of the deaths of 16 people, predominantly women and children. Over 300 Fulani homes were said to have been burned to the ground in the chiefdom’s several communities. Our families and homes were not the only ones targeted; Fulani cattle were also targeted. There have been rumours of numerous cows being slaughtered, although the exact number is unknown due to the difficult security situation in the area.
“In addition, thousands of cows were abandoned by fleeing livestock owners, putting the animals at risk of rustling.
This is the current condition in the affected areas. Fulani pastoralists are in shambles, at the mercy of God and with no help from anyone. Their homes and livelihoods have been completely devastated.
“Against this backdrop, a press statement made by the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) caught our attention. We am astounded by their sources of information and their use of utter blackmail against violence victims. We implore media organisations to remain impartial and to listen to all sides, to visit the scenes on both sides of the divides, and to speak with individuals on both sides of the divides in order to present Nigerians with accurate descriptions of what is going on in the impacted areas.
“At this juncture, the most important thing SOKAPU and all other parties can do is form partnerships and cooperate to achieve long-term peace and social harmony.
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