One woman has been confirmed dead and many others injured in the aftermath of a protest by villagers at Goran Gan against Fulani herdsmen when officers deployed to man a military outpost at the community in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Southern Kaduna allegedly opened fire on a women-led peaceful protest on Wednesday evening.
Women of Gora, angry that soldiers do not come to their rescue when Fulani herdsmen attack their communities but arrest young people who protect the communities against attackers who come from nearby forests, staged a peaceful protest asking the military to stop arresting innocent people.
FIJ gathered from multiple sources that one of the protesters, a widow identified as Mama Naomi John, was killed by soldiers during the peaceful protest.
Witnesses told FIJ that the problem began days ago when three hunters from Goran Gan village were attacked in the forest by gunmen. One was killed while two others escaped.
Days after the incident, on Monday, some cows invaded a cassava farm, destroying crops while the herders watched. The farmer, with support from his colleagues, succeeded in chasing away the invaders who left behind their cows.
“The cows were taken to the military outpost in the town. The Fulanis later appeared to claim their cows and asking for the matter to be settled,. If there was any compensation, let all parties agree,” a witness at Goran Gan, who did not want to be named, told FIJ.
“The farmers then requested that the matter should be taken to the police station so that police would be aware. So they called the Secretary to the District Head and they went in his car with the Fulani.
“On their way within town, the youths stopped them, killing some of the Fulani. But two of them escaped.”
When news of the killing of the cattle herders reached the soldiers, they invaded the village and indiscriminately arrested young people.
“The soldiers were like, where are the youths? Many of them ran away, leaving their wives and kids. So the women now started protesting against the indiscriminate arrest of young people. Then they shot at the women, some were injured and are currently in the hospital,” the witness said.
The protesting women carried leafs. It was a peaceful demonstration, FIJ learned.
“The arrests continued late into the night and people were afraid to return to home,” said a resident of one of the Goran communities, who requested not want to be named.
Beevan Magoni, a broadcast journalist, told FIJ: “They entered my father’s house yesterday and tossed it upside down. The oldest man in my family, who is almost 80 years old, was arrested and harassed by soldiers.”
Killings and destruction of properties by criminal Fulani herdsmen occur frequently at Zango Kataf and many parts of Southern Kaduna, prompting reprisal attacks by villagers. The wave of violence continues despite the existence of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), a combat programme of the military established to secure troubled communities in the state. The most recent of the violence was last week when 13 people were killed, 56 houses and 16 motorcycles were torched in Zango Kataf, Kauru and Chikun LGAs.
“On entering Gan, I felt some certain gloomy darkness hovering over the town. Literally speaking, you would feel like the dead are spookily hovering over the horizon in some certain bizarre costume,” wrote Magoni, on January 3.
Before then, his niece and another person were among those killed by gunmen at Gan market the same week a farmer was killed on his farm land by suspected Fulani herdsmen, his corpse was found a month later.
The crisis has religious, economic and political undertones, complicating efforts to achieve peace, security observers noted about the deeply-polarised Kaduna State. The Kataf people who are mostly farmers and Christians, have over the years, claimed that attacks on their communities were plots by the Fulani to take over their land — a claim denied by the Fulani. They have also accused the state government, led by Nasir El’Rufai, of not doing enough to end the attacks.
The Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs in Kaduna state, Samuel Aruwan, did not answer multiple calls to his phone and text messages sent by FIJ were not replied as of the time of publishing this report.
When the Director of Public Relations of the Nigeria Army, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Yerima, was contacted, he directed FIJ to the Defence Headquarters. There was no response from the military as of the time this report was published.
“Our people are better off without the military. The military is not impacting us. The military is there and people are still dying,” Magoni lamented.
“If you had a clear conscience and sincerely intend to execute the mandate to protect the people in a community, who are bandits to invade and kill women and children who can’t run to safety?”
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