Date: February 23, 2017
By World Watch Monitor
Feb. 23, 2017
Two German archaeologists have been kidnapped by unknown gunmen in southern Kaduna, highlighting the growing insecurity in the northern Nigerian state.
The kidnapping of the two men, who have been working in the region for 10 years, took place in Kagarko*, 80km (50 miles) from Kafanchan, where more than 800 people have been killed since 2011.
Nigeria’s Middle Belt, which includes Kaduna, Nasarawa, Taraba, Benue and other states, is the scene of frequent attacks on Christian farmers (often called indigenes) by mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani nomadic herdsmen.
Earlier this week, heavily armed herdsmen killed at least 30 people, including two policemen, and destroyed homes over two days in the mostly Christian communities of Kafanchan and Kagoro.
Local Christians say security personnel are preventing the Christians from protecting their own communities while allowing the Fulani to attack without any interference.
The violence had reached a peak over Christmas when dozens of Christians were killed. That prompted local authorities to declare a 24-hour curfew in three Local Government Areas (LGAs): Jema’a, Kaura and Sanga.
The Nigerian National Human Rights Commission in December 2016 had called on President Muhammadu Buhari to put an end to the ongoing deadly attacks. At the same time, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project asked the UN to investigate the killings. Dr. Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on Extra-Judicial or Arbitrary Executions, promised to look into the massacres, with a view to ensuring that justice prevails and the culprits are punished.
Church groups in northern Nigeria have condemned recent killings, which they say are aimed at wiping out the Christian presence in the region. The attacks, which have claimed hundreds of lives, have affected mainly the central states of Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Benue, but also Kaduna. Southern Kaduna has been particularly targeted, with attacks occurring almost on a weekly, or even daily basis recently.
Kaduna’s state government had responded to the insecurity by relocating the Army Commander and Police Commissioner to southern Kaduna.
Many groups and individuals, including Peter Bawa, the Chairman of the Northern Christian Youth Assembly, have commended the state governor, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, for initiatives taken so far, believing that they will go a long way to curtail the menace of herdsmen who have plunged many communities in the area into mourning.
However, some of southern Kaduna’s indigenous population interviewed by World Watch Monitor said the government was militarising the conflict, using military force as the first and not the last resort, often without civilian engagement.
The state government has also accused church leaders, activists, journalists and even traditional rulers, seeking to raise awareness about the violence, of committing hate speech, incitement and attempting to secure foreign funding. Several have been taken in for questioning or briefly detained.
On 17 February, activist and lawyer Audu Maikori, who had mistakenly tweeted a false report before retracting it and apologising unreservedly, was arrested in Lagos and flown to Abuja, where he was detained overnight on a warrant reportedly issued in Kaduna.
*Southern Kaduna has eight LGAs – Sanga, Jema’a, Kaura, Jaba, Zangon Kataf, Kagarko, Kachia and Kauru – and is predominantly Christian; the worst hit LGAs are Jema’a, Kaura, Sanga and Kauru.