SHRILLS of their frightened voices mixed with the deadliness of the crackle of their burning abodes were drowned by the booming guns that ended their lives well before the ashes of their houses ran cold.
The head count at dawn recorded nine people dead, burnt beyond recognition, others fled to the forests, some may never return.
The July 8 attack on Warkan, Gora District of Zango-Kataf Local Government Area, southern parts of Kaduna State, is one in a series of attacks that have visited the area in the past few months. Zango-Kataf strolled into international memory 29 years ago when the military government of the day jailed one of its most prominent sons, Maj-Gen Zamani Lekwot over attacks in the area, in which the indigenes appeared to have had an upper hand over their Fulani herdsmen opponents.
Nothing has been resolved in those years. Countless attacks, government statements that conceal the fact that government could be overwhelmed, and a growing inattentiveness that spins theories of government bias, have spiked the incidents.
The death toll – Yohanna Atung, Ifraim Ibrahim, Safiratu Ifraim, Enuch Habila (men) and the women were Zipora Ifraim, Zisan Ifraim, Nasara Ifraim, Janet Dauda, and Shitu Yohanna. The Ifraim family lost four members in the attack. Except for Mrs. Yohanna who died from bullet injuries the other eight were burnt beyond recognition, according to a Kataf resident who asked not to be named because of security concerns.
Thirteen houses were burnt down including that of the Village Head Mr. Habila, who also lost a relation, Enuch. The victims were buried the next day.
Apart from Maj-Gen Lekwot, prominent Kataf people include Bala Achi, historian, writer, lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University; Katung Aduwak, filmmaker, winner of Big Brother Nigeria 2006; Rachel Bakam, entertainer, TV presenter, Maj-Gen Ishaya Bakut, former military Governor of Benue State, former ECOMOG Commander; Senator Isaiah Balat, entrepreneur, politician; Lt-Col Musa Bityong, killed in the 1990 Gideon Orkar coup, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese; Kyuka Lilymjok, lawyer, writer, academic; Air Vice Marshal Ishaya Aboi Shekari, former military Governor of Kano State; Maj-Gen Yohanna Madaki, former military Governor of Gongola State; Andrew Yakubu, former Group Managing Director of NNPC, and Bishop Paul Samuel Zamani, Anglican Bishop of Kwoi, one of the dioceses in Abuja.
“What are they supposed to do?,” one Kataf chief asked when reminded of the prominent people from the area. “Are they government? Many of them have done their part, but the killings persist.”
On 11 July another four were killed and scores injured and their houses burnt as well as stealing their cattle which the poor people use for farming, a Kataf indigene said.
“Our people need to be protected,” he said
Reports were sent to the Kaduna State Government on the incident.
“The latest now is that the whole of our land, Katafland, has been evaded by Fulani in total war, killing, burning homes and churches including the personal home of our Paramount Chief in Magamiya, his home town. These also include houses of all his relations.
“Everyone is running into the bushes for cover. People are in hiding places. That’s the sad development,” another source reported by phone on Tuesday, 13 July. The long drawn disputes between the indigenes and the Fulani have gone through many fruitless efforts at resolving them. The dispute centres in grazing land, water, and destruction of farm lands.
A major complaint of the Fulani herdsmen is that the indigenes rustle their cattle. Matters have gone beyond that point. There are attacks even when there are no clear issues. During those attacks in addition to the killings and destruction, cattle on the Kataf side are also rustled.
“The killing of our people has been on for years from one town to the other. These persistent attacks made our Paramount Chief to constitute a peace and security committee comprising Hausa, Fulani and Atyap as well as other tribes resident in Atyapland to find a lasting solution leading to peaceful coexistence,” an Atyap (Kataf) elder narrated.
He said the committee was inaugurated 22 August 2020. “The committee is supported by other agencies known for mediation, negotiation and reconciliation for peace, but it is sad to say that the attacks have been ongoing. Sad as it may be, the Atyap youths have been frustrated by these events. They try to defend their communities but always fall to the superior firing power of the attackers. The question is where do these people acquire such sophisticated arms?
“Several attempts have been made by the peace committee to resolve the problems. However, it appears there are merchants of war from both sides who are benefitting from the day to day uprising and are fuelling the problems. This is our suspicion,” the elder said.
Villagers helplessly suffer from one attack after the other unprotected. In most cases such help comes only after the attackers have left. The security appears overwhelmed.
The attackers are daring. The Sector Commander and entourage came under attack at a town near Jankasa in Ungwar Gaya District on Tuesday, said a security source who revealed that the entourage’s vehicle was damaged.
When the attackers came to Ungwar Ezekiel of Gora District on the night of 11 July, they killed Hauwa Daniel, David Daniel, Shadrach Daniel, Isaac Daniel, all members of the same family, and Naomi Wasika. They injured Rani Wasika, Jummai Wasika, and Shafatiya Daniel who were hospitalised.
The houses of Manasseh Garba, Emmanuel Simon, Joshua Maisamari, seven of whose cattle were rustled, Atura Iliya, Sunday Usman, Ishaya Inusa, Ezekiel Magaji were burnt.
The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU, in a statement by its spokesman, Luka Binyat said the attacks ran for seven days on Atyap community with the death toll, number of churches and homes burnt rising. “They took their time, looted the village and loaded their bounty into the five Hilux vans they were driving in and burnt down all the 19 houses in the small village.” He listed more places where the attacks resulted in deaths.
Alhaji Haruna Usman Tugga, in a statement for Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, said “We are all aware, violent conflicts have been ongoing in many of the villages in Atyap Chiefdom of Zangon Kataf Local Government. Based on the information available to our association, what triggered the present round of disturbances emanated from the attack on a family by unknown bandits in Gora Gan village in the chiefdom on 7th July 2021.”
He continued, “What is most needed at this stage from SOKAPU and all other stakeholders is partnership and cooperation that will lead to durable peace and social harmony”.
Kataf people are waiting for the government to resolve these matters, and hoping there would be no further attacks.