FOR the people of Birnin-Gwari in Kaduna State, it is a short-lived joy. When the activities of criminal elements in the area temporarily came to a halt some weeks ago, they heaved a sigh of relief, thinking that the era of the evil men who killed, kidnapped, and destroyed for their selfish interests had ended. With an air of certainty, they thought they could return to their homes and begin farming in their respective communities.
But they were wrong. The honeymoon did not last long when the terrorists returned in full to their duty posts and began to unleash onslaughts on their victims with even more brutality. Alas! The bandits have now returned to the area in full force, blocking the hitherto ever-busy Kaduna-Birnin-Gwari Road for days and kidnapping many citizens for ransom.
While the locals in Birnin-Gwari put the number of persons kidnapped by terrorists at 40 when they recently took over the road, the spokesman for the Kaduna Police Command, Mr. Rilwan Hassan, has disputed the figure, claiming that government had intensified efforts to smoke out the daredevils. The police claim notwithstanding, the Birnin-Gwari Emirate Peoples Union, BEPU, through its official, Ishaq Kasai, has regretted that motorists and other commuters have since deserted the road, which was the shortest route from the North to the South-West, for fear of their lives.
The locals observed that the arrangement whereby security posts along that route were erected far from one another had given terrorists leeway to launch corridor attacks and kidnap travellers at will, without any resistance. Although other communities in the state have also witnessed the renewed onslaught by bandits, such as the gruesome killing of Muslim worshippers in a mosque at the Saya-Saya community of Ikara Local Government Area, the worst hit communities are in Southern Kaduna. It will be recalled that in a night attack on a church in Southern Kaduna, which Governor Uba Sani alleged could be a sinister plot to cause religious crisis, the suspected bandits razed an entire rectory, and as the Catholic priests were running for their lives, a young seminarian among them was not that lucky and was burned alive.
These two incidents in Ikara LGA in Southern Kaduna have made the visibly angry governor charge security operatives to hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to book. Professor Ishaya Kato Auta, President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU, condemned in strong terms the barbaric attacks and killings of scores of their people without any justification. While chronicling the series of attacks on Southern Kaduna in recent times, Professor Auta said: “On August 28, 2023, Mr. Danlami Dogara (Sarkin Bakin Kogin Kero) in Garu Ward of Lere LGA was gruesomely murdered at his residence. The following day, August 29, 2023, one Mr..Jefferson Nyongono Bitrus was also brutally killed by unknown gunmen at his house in Geshere Ward, Kauru LGA.
“On September 4, 2023, the corpse of a young man was seen by the roadside at Makyali village, Kaduna-Kachia road. Just last week, eight people were kidnapped and one person killed at Yaji in Kachia LGA; more than ten people along Kachia Road; and nine people, including women and children, in Rimi Kamazou in Chikun LGA of the same Kaduna State, were recklessly kidnapped, just to mention but a few.
And just last Thursday, September 7, 2023, a group of armed terrorists invaded Fadan Kamantan, a community in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, and attacked the residence of the Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Okolo, where the entire rectory was set ablaze. Unfortunately, a seminarian by the name of Na’aman Ngofe Danladi, who was completing his training into the Catholic priesthood, was burned to death by the fire.
“With sharp pains in our hearts, SOKAPU condemns in strong terms these barbaric attacks on our peaceful communities, killings of innocent souls, and kidnappings of scores of our people. We are appalled by the sudden resurgence of terrorism and violence against innocent citizens in Southern Kaduna. For the past three weeks now, Lere, Chikun, Atyap, and other LGAs have experienced different degrees of assassinations, kidnappings, and assaults on our people. We see these dastardly, cowardly, and callous acts of banditry in all their ramifications as a direct affront to the constituted authorities, which must not be allowed to continue. We, therefore, call on government at all levels and the security agencies to quickly come to the aid of our people in Southern Kaduna.
We sympathise with the immediate families and friends of the victims and the entire Catholic community in Fadan Kamantan, Kafanchan Diocese, and Southern Kaduna at this tragic moment.”
Kaduna State Governor Uba Sani, who is saddened by the renewed wave of attacks in the Birnin-Gwari axis of the state, has already approved the recruitment of thousands of youth as members of the Kaduna Vigilance Service to be trained to assist the security operatives in fighting the criminals. In a statement by his spokesman, Mohammed Lawal Shehu, Sani expressed the fear that the heightened attacks could be the work of elements trying to ignite ethnic and religious tensions in Kaduna State and sabotage the government’s efforts towards rebuilding trust in the communities.
“I am deeply saddened by the attack on Fadan Kamatan Parish, Zangon Kataf. This act of violence against innocent worshipers is not only an attack on the Catholic community but also an attempt to set our people against each other. We will not tolerate such acts of brutality and will go to any length within the law to bring the attackers to book,” he said.
While urging the security agencies to swiftly investigate the incident and ensure that the culprits are arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law, Governor Sani expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and assured them of the state government’s support during this difficult time.
The governor said his administration has taken proactive steps to restore peace in troubled communities by strengthening partnerships with federal security agencies and reinvigorating the Kaduna Vigilance Service with the recruitment of no fewer than 7000 persons.
For the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kaduna State, what is disheartening about this particular attack is that the place of attack was just by the Kaduna-Kafanchan major highway, with a military checkpoint not far from the church.
According to Reverend John Joseph Hayab, the Chairman of CAN, the parish is located at the heart of Kamantan Town, and the attack was carried out at about 8:00 p.m.
The Commander of Operation Safe Haven, OPSH, and General Officer Commanding, GOC, 3 Division Nigerian Army, Major General Abdulsalam Abubakar, during an engagement with leaders and people of the area, said that the recurring isolated killings, destruction of farms, cow poisoning, cattle rustling, kidnappings and other sundry criminal acts must stop with immediate effect.
He warned that those perpetrating insecurity for their selfish gains must embrace peace and find lawful means of livelihood or face the consequence of their evil actions, pointing out that multifaceted measures are being considered to ensure that Southern Kaduna remains untenable for the evil doers.
The commander vowed to decisively deal with criminals perpetrating attacks that lead to loss of lives and property in Southern Kaduna.