The government of Kaduna State has not been dealing fairly with the various parties involved in and affected by protracted violence, killings, and raids of communities in the southern region, experts have said.
House of Justice, an advocacy and legal service centre in Kaduna, organised a tweet session on Wednesday where it facilitated a discussion on “Southern Kaduna Massacres in International Relations”.
The panellists, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, senior legal officer at the Open Society for Justice Initiative, and Dr Leena Hoffmann, an associate fellow at the Chatham House’ Africa Programme, agreed that insecurity in the region has been misrepresented and poorly addressed so far by the federal and state government.
Professor Odinkalu stressed that it is wrong for the killings to be reduced to “intercommunal clashes” or “conflicts” and advised against what he called “laziness in language” in defining the issues.
“What kind of ‘conflict’ is it that hacks children to death when they are sleeping?” he asked.
He described the government’s failure to show empathy and accountability as well as take every community seriously as irresponsible. The solution, he said, is for it to build cross-community alliances against the perpetrators of the massacre and lead “concerted activities to put them out of business”.
“But right now, the government utterly lacks credibility,” he added.
“What really has the Nigerian Government done? Well, the Southern Kaduna Massacre has been a mortuary to a few panels and judicial commissions of inquiry, whose reports have promptly died in the long grass. You have to ask yourself, how can one division of the Nigerian Army be in Kaduna and this thing continues?”
“The present governor has repeatedly said he will talk to some people and not others. By some coincidence, the people on the receiving end of the Southern Kaduna Massacre appear to be mostly the people he won’t talk to. When I called him out last year, he set about sending me to jail.”
The former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission said he has not seen the government’s efforts towards ending the crisis and does not recall any president visiting the sites of the killings in over 30 years.
“Victims, our citizens, are not valued. Governors except [Ahmed] Makarfi go there to abuse and hector victims,” he said.
Professor Odinkalu submitted that the government’s inaction has caused inter-communal coexistence to further break down and argued that the only true bandits in Southern Kaduna are the politicians.
“In the Southern Kaduna Massacre, you see the failures of Nigeria’s democratic experiment in their full majesty. The Nigerian government is schtum, and the Kaduna State government appears more interested in inventing enemies and trying to persecute them rather than ensuring accountability for these massacres.”
Dr Hoffmann clarified that killings in Southern Kaduna are not like fatal clashes between ethnoreligious groups or between herders and farmers but are rather a case of communities being attacked by well-armed groups.
“The incentives of violence for these armed groups and their capacity to stretch out Nigeria’s security architecture are simply too strong. These armed groups are acting very nimbly, and whether by accident or design, intent on overwhelming the Nigeria government’s security capacity,” she said.
She agreed that perceived partiality in the government’s reaction to the crisis has made it less credible.
“Expectations are framed by the realities of past failures to arrest, charge and lawfully punish perpetrators as well as transparently act on recommendations from past reports. Additionally, Governor El Rufai is still remembered on the matter of compensation for herders’ losses,” Dr Hoffman explained.
“The Kaduna State governments’ actions around establishing, reactivating, demarcating grazing reserves and investing in related activities provide an unhelpful contrast to the displacement, destroyed farmlands and property in Southern Kaduna.
“Such conflicting signals complicate long-lasting solutions to the successive crises of #SouthernKaduna. There are no easy solutions but there are those – especially when poorly handled – that undermine the social contract.”
She said the unending nature of the violence in the region has led to a humanitarian crisis that has caused the residents to become displaced and made people lose their sources of livelihood, especially farming.
Dr Hoffman urged that affected communities must be made to feel like their lives and how the crisis has affected them matters. She warned that dismissing their grievances and mistrust fuels feelings of frustration towards the government.
She added, “The military, police and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Kaduna State Command will need to invest in gaining trust and building and strengthening community liaison mechanisms so they can improve intelligence gathering, early warning and rapid response.
“Ending impunity also means reducing the chances of aggrieved communities taking matters into their own hands.
“Beyond the transnational dimensions that are more prominent in the recent crisis, underlying, persistent inter-group dynamics in Southern Kaduna need to be addressed through honest and sustained dialogue.
“It is striking how strongly different constituencies in Southern Kaduna wish to be heard. The Kaduna State govt owes them active listening through forums that can help create a shared sense of equal citizenship & social cohesion. Such forums should also address gender in conflict.”
She also recommended that compensation is transparently given to people who have lost property and livelihoods, border security is boosted, and surveillance of forest areas is improved on.
According to Global Rights, an international human rights capacity-building organisation, there were at least 1,416 in Nigeria between January and April as a result of mass violence, 1,141 out of which involved civilians. Kaduna recorded 198 casualties, second only to Borno State where 342 people died.