By Luka Binniyat, National Public Relations Officer
The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), over the weekend met with the Commander, Operation Safe Haven, Major General Chukwuwemeka Okonkwo and some top members of his command in Jos. This was based on his invitation, as he had earlier met with leaders of Hausa and Fulani communities in Southern Kaduna. SOKAPU took time to brief the General on the nature of the violence in Southern Kaduna and assured him of our desire to see the end of the violence. He also told us what he was doing to return normalcy to Southern Kaduna and assured us of his neutrality in the crisis.
We told him that contrary to ongoing narratives, “Southern Kaduna” is not the same as “Kaduna South Senatorial Zone”. While the latter is made up of only eight LGAs in the enclave, Southern Kaduna is made up of 12 LGAs and holds 51.2% of the population of Kaduna state, based on the 2006 census population figures. And that out of 46,000 Sq km, Southern Kaduna covers 26,000sqkm and has 57 registered ethnic nationalities with us, out of the 67 identified ones.
On the nature of the violence, we debunked the ongoing narratives that “the crisis has a long history.” We told him that past crises were largely urban based, and looked unplanned, but triggered by identified reasons and that it could take years before reoccurrence. We added that previous violence was always between Muslims and Christians of any state of origin within affected areas. But the current one looks preplanned, daily, with our rural communities as the targets of mass slaughter, destruction, and ejection by the invaders, who eventually take over some of the communities. We told him that 109 communities have been “captured” by Fulani militia. We insisted that there is an agenda to force us out of our lands and be occupied by the invaders.
SOKAPU assured the OPSH commander that with no other alternative place or land to fall back to, Southern Kaduna indigenes are much more desirous of peace than any other party.
We also used the opportunity to thank him for the recent fast response rate of his troops to distress calls from communities under attack or the threat of attacks, unlike in the past.
We also noted his humanitarian assistance to all parties in Southern Kaduna as exceptional.
Again, we showed appreciation with his deployment of large numbers of troops to Zangan District, in Atakad Chiefdom, Kaura LGA which eight communities had been totally displaced since last year and occupied by armed herdsmen. We acknowledged reports reaching us that the villagers have started returning and many of them, who can afford it, are rebuilding their homes.
Based on the above, we requested that other displaced communities in 4 LGAs of Southern Kaduna should also be assisted to return home. We then gave him a list of the remaining occupied villages in our report and called for urgent actions to retrieve the occupied lands and bring culprits to justice.
On his part, he promised to be a neutral party in the crisis. He said he was equally desirous to see that peace and safety returns to Southern Kaduna as the violence was bearing its brunt on the image of the country and posed an avoidable stress to his troops and resources.
On this note, SOKAPU wishes to thank the Federal government for the redeployment of more troops to the troubled areas of Southern Kaduna.
With this, thousands who may wish to return home cannot. Because their homes have been completely ruined. Also, hundreds of Hectares farmlands of affected communities have been ravaged by cattle on the loose. We also have thousands living under subhuman conditions in various IDPs or at homes of relations. We are therefore calling for assistance from the government, NGOs and good spirited individuals for building materials, food, medicine and any form of aid that will improve the situation of the victims.
On this note, we are calling on all our members at home to give maximum cooperation to men and officers of Operation Safe Haven.
Again, we want to appeal to our youths not to initiate any act that will be interpreted as violent to anyone trespassing on any farmland, but report such incidence to community leaders, the police or any nearby military formation of Operation Safe Haven.
Any action that will be inimical to the good image of our area and to the peace and wellbeing of all residents of Southern Kaduna must be shun by our people, but we must not compromise our rights to self-preservation within the law.
As indigenous owners of Southern Kaduna, SOKAPU endorses all peaceful, fair and sustainable means of restoring normalcy to our troubled mother land and we urge our members to do the same.