For the 6th day running, armed gunmen, identified by their victims as Fulani herdsmen, have laid siege to several communities in Atyap land, Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Southern Kaduna, leaving no fewer than 33 people dead an ongoing genocide and land grabbing in which 108 Southern Kaduna communities have been displaced and taken over since 2019.
According to a statement signed by Luka Binniyat, the spokesperson for the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, in the latest orgy of bloodshed, the invaders stormed Magamiya village Tuesday night around 11pm and started shooting.
The family compound of the traditional ruler of Atyap Chiefdom, Agwatyap of Atyap Chiefdom, Sir Dominic Yahaya, was attacked where several blocks of flats and rooms were looted of valuables and foodstuffs which were carted into four waiting Hilux vans.
The houses were then set ablaze.
A relation of the revered traditional ruler, Mr. Toma Tauna, 70, was killed by the assailants.
The assailants went further to loot six more homes which they also burnt, leaving Matthew Pama, 62, dead in the same village.
“After putting in about two hours of unchallenged murder, looting and arson, the armed herdsmen attempted to burn down St. Pious Catholic Church in the village, but help came from other villages and the attackers retreated in the Hilux vans for another village,” the statement read.
Magamiya is about 3km from Zangon Kataf semi-urban town where a combined troops of soldiers and other security men are camped complete with patrol vehicles and armoured tanks.
According to the statement, the same assailants returned and passed besides Zango Kataf town and drove five kilometres west of the town and attacked three other villages from around 1:30 am.
“In the attacks, Matyei, made up of 156 homes were all burnt. The Catholic Church in Matei and its pastorium was burnt. The catechist, simply known as Catechist Yau, and an infant, were killed in the attack.
“In all, eight persons were killed last night in Matyei in a violence that lasted for over an hour,” it added.
Binniyat said the armed Fulani herdsmen then went down to Abuyab Community, about 500 metres away, and burnt down ECWA Church Abuyab and the home of former ECOMOG Field Commander, Maj. Gen. Shekari Billyok (rtd), and 11 homes.
Binniyat said: “Their attempt to attack Runji Community nearby was repelled by villagers who got reinforcement elsewhere.
“As they retreated, they attempted to destroy the main bridge linking Matyei with Zangon Kataf town and other Atyap communities, but only succeeded partially.
“Yesterday, before the night attacks occurred, the same armed herdsmen came in Hilux vans and attacked the Atyap of Makarau and Kachechere communities leaving 10 people confirmed dead, 12 houses burnt after looting them.
“The ECWA and the Anglican Church pastoriums that serve the communities were set ablaze.
“In a nutshell, 20 Atyap natives were killed by the attackers (who all the villagers that saw them identified as armed herdsmen) between afternoon and today’s morning, Tuesday, 13 July, 2021.”
The previous day, Sunday, 11th July, Warkan Community, about seven kilometres east of Matyei, came under fire by armed herdsmen, leaving eight people dead. The village was looted and animals rustled before 11 homes were burnt by the invaders.
On ninth of July, 2021, Timothy Ayok, 35, from Makarau village was ambushed and killed dastardly by armed herdsmen as he returned from his farm that afternoon.
On 8th July, at Kibori village, about one kilometre from Zangon Kataf town, a widow, Mrs. Esther Patrick, 65, and her family of three were wiped out, including her six-year-old grandchild, Yerima Godfrey.
“In the past six days, at least 33 Atyap natives of Zangon Kataf Area were massacred, four churches and 215 homes burnt by assailants always identified as armed herdsmen in a genocidal campaign that has become very intensive since 2016,” he noted.
SOKAPU condemned the “wicked act and the complicit silence and inaction of government from taking steps to bring the perpetrators and their leaders to justice.”
It noted that Atyap members have been consistent in accusing the Hausa settlers of Zangon Kataf semi-urban town of harbouring killer herdsmen, yet nothing has been done about it.
“On the 31st March, 2021, some Fulani squatters on Atyap land complained that their cattle and sheep were killed by Atyap persons.
“In a swift move, 15 Atyap leaders from four indicted communities were arrested by troops, detained for days and handed over to Kaduna State police command headquarters.
“The police alleged that the Atyap leaders, among them 85-year-old Waje Laah, killed 706 Fulani cows and 75 rams in a single day and buried them in a ditch same day, which every rational person knows as impossible feat to accomplish.
“But all the same, they were kept in detention for three months without trial and only released on bail last week.
“Meanwhile, not less than 100 Atyap natives had been killed and about 24 Atyap villages burnt and hundreds of hectares of farmland bearing growing food crops destroyed by Fulani cows since July 2020. Not a single Fulani leader has been called for questioning,” SOKAPU said in a statement.
It, therefore, called for humanitarian assistance for the thousands of displaced Atyap women and children who are still moving away from several villages to various places around Samaru Kataf, Zonkwa and environs.
It also appealed to the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) and the State Emergency Management Authority (SEMA) to provide immediate relief materials to the displaced persons.
“We call on the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, the United Nations and all relevant international organizations, including local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and human rights groups to bear pressure on the Federal Government and Kaduna State Government to stop the genocide in Atyap land and bring the culprits to justice,” the statement added.