In the last couple of weeks, members of the Kaduna State Peace Commission have been going to Kafanchan and Southern Kaduna area for parleys between farmers and herders. Apart from farmers/herders clash, what has the commission been doing to stem the tide of communal clashes, bandits attacks and reprisals in Kaduna state since it was formed four years ago?
Like you rightly observed, like in every part of Kaduna state, there are security challenges facing the Southern senatorial zone, in particular, the local governments of Kauru, Kaura, Jema’a and some parts of Sanga local government. Like you said, these crises can be characterized into three; one is the activities of criminal gangs or groups that raid villages for one reason or the other, to maim, kill people and destroy property. The second are inter-communal disputes that revolve around access to resources, perceptions or misperceptions of each other, which are often driven by narratives that are often unfounded. These narratives have no basis but they drive extreme behaviours, particularly among young people. The third one is conflict between pastoralists and farming communities, revolving around access to water, grazing areas, which brings about damages to crops and issues related to that.
On the activities of criminal groups, we appreciate the efforts of the Armed Forces, the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, community leaders and all the stakeholders that are collectively working to address some of these issues. We all know that this is a national crisis, which is more prevalent in the North western part of Nigeria today, even though all the other parts of the country are facing their own variants of some of these problems.
For example, there is militancy in the Niger Delta and insurgency in the North East and the activities of secessionist groups in the South East and parts of the South West. So, the Operation Safe Haven and the Nigerian Police Command and the Department of State Security and the NCSDC, are working collectively with community leaders to deal with these challenges of insecurity. And we appreciate the contribution and efforts of the Kaduna State Government in dealing with them. We all know that the Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs is always running around the state, coordinating operations and ensuring that our citizens are protected.
Coming back to the two other aspects, conflict between communities and conflicts between farmers and pastoralists, these fall within the core mandate of Kaduna State Peace Commission. Happily, in recent months, we have gone into partnership with the Plateau State Peace Building Agency, as well as the United States Institute for Peace. And we are working in the conflict prone areas, in the shared borders of Kauru local government in Kaduna state and Bassa local government in Plateau state. We are also working in the shared borders of Kaura local government in the conflicts around Atakar and Ganawuri communities; Atakar in Kaduna state while Ganawuri is in Riyom local government in Plateau state. Through this initiative, we are forging ahead and we are happy to say that in the last four months or so, there has been no crisis in the whole of these areas. As for Atakar and Ganawuri, we have almost three years with no violent confrontations in these areas, because of the efforts we have been putting.
What we are trying to do now is to ensure that the communities in Kauru, the Chawai Chiefdom that borders Irigwe Chiefdom in Plateau state live in permanent peace. We intend to bring them together, in fact next week, we are going to organize a tripartite meeting in Kafanchan, to further discuss on the gains that we have recorded. For the Atakar and Riyom, we will hold another meeting in Riyom local government, to build on the consensus that we have already achieved on the meetings that we have held in Takad Chiefdom in Kaduna state. With all these efforts, we hope that the issues between Takad and Atem in Riyom local government of Plateau state will be brought to rest permanently. We also intend to work with Kaduna State Government, the National Boundary Commission to address some of these border issues between the two states.
Now, the other area that is facing similar challenges in Jema’a local government, particularly in Fantsuwan, leading up to the areas around Goska and parts of Godogodo Chiefdom. Happily, we are working in those communities; we have held several meetings with the Fantsuwan communities and the Fulani pastoral communities. Next week, we are also going to build on this and bring the two communities together in Kafanchan, so as to bring an end to some of the hostilities in these communities. What we want is to restore these communities to the period of communal peaceful coexistence, where inter-changes and harmony were prevailing.
The conflict between pastoralists and farming communities is more prevalent in Zangon Kataf local government and parts of Jema’a local government. In Jema’a local government, extending to parts of Kaura local government area, the Ministry of Local Government Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, are working with the council chairmen of Jema’a and Kaura. They convened a meeting to discuss some of these issues with all the stakeholders. We were able to identify some of the key drivers and what needed to be done to bring to an end, to some of the damages to crops by livestock, access to water points and the restiveness of the youth. In Zangon Kataf local government area, there is an inter-play between criminality and communal conflicts. So, whenever there are attacks by criminal groups, communities interpret them as assaults or aggression from the other communities. We intend to bring all the stakeholders and enlighten them, in the next few weeks, to enable them to distinguish between community disputes and the activities of criminal groups.
The people of Zangon Kataf signed a peace accord in 2020, where the Atyap, Hausa and Fulani people committed to live in peace. However, the peace deal was short lived as violence has returned to the area. What happened?
Like you rightly said, the initiative was led by the Atyap Traditional Council, strongly supported by the local government, the Kaduna State Government as well as the Kaduna State Peace Commission. We have trained members of the peace committee at the local government, we supported them with logistics and other technical support and other supports from a lot of Civil Society Organisations, to help them with enough capacity to intervene. Happily, the major constituents of the chiefdom, the Atyap, Hausa and Fulani communities came together to agree to live in peace.
Like you know, whenever there is breakdown of law and order for a very long time, two things are likely going to happen. One, some youths have been mobilized who have cultivated the culture of violent response. That is a major challenge. The second one is that, all the security breaches that have been happening, have opened up wide spaces for criminal groups and gangs to emerge. So, it is now very easy for bandits and other criminal groups to organize and invade some of these communities to either rustle cattle or attack communities in order to confiscate wealth or to kidnap persons for the purpose of ransom. But because of the breakdown of social order within that area, when such happens, if it involves the Atyap community they will blame the other community as being responsible; they will not see it as the handiwork of criminal gangs. If the attack is on the Fulani pastoral community, they will not see it as coming from bandits who have come to rustle their cows. They will see it as emanating from the other community. So, when these attacks happen, the aggrieved youths that have been mobilized over the years and have the tendency towards violence, will just pounce on the perceived aggressors. So, these two inter-related challenges are what has made the peace agreement so difficult to implement.
Like I said, the only thing that we will do to stop this is to return the communities to social harmony and social cohesion. To enlighten the youths and bring them back to the path of peace and progress, cooperation and unity. Let the three communities recognize the actions of criminals as being different from the actions of community groups. And we will identify those that have the tendency for violence, especially amongst the youth, and encourage them to stop those nefarious activities.
The activities of the Kaduna State Peace Commission seems to be concentrated in the Southern part. Are there no aggrieved parties to reconcile in the Northern and Central senatorial zones?
We have just concluded plans to hold zonal meetings on farmer/herder conflicts; one in Kaduna for the Central senatorial zone, another one in Zaria for the Northern senatorial zone. At this migratory period, the area bordering the states of Zamfara, Kano and Bauchi always witness a number of conflicts. Also, other communities bordering Niger state witness incoming migratory groups. So, we are already talking to the relevant authorities in Kano, Katsina, Zamfara and Bauchi states and Niger state, to bring their representatives to these zonal meetings that we are going to convene. These will address farmer/herder conflicts in all our frontline local governments throughout the state.
We all know that there are challenges, particularly in Igabi, Giwa and Birnin Gwari local governments, as well as Chikun in the Central senatorial zone. We have also concluded arrangements and plans, to engage with the stakeholders and communities, especially those at the border with those conflict and insecure zones. We will emphasise the importance of collaborating and working with security agencies, local government administrations, to address some of these insecurities in the local governments.
One of our key local governments and which we have been giving focus all this while, is Kajuru local government. We are not relenting on our efforts in Kajuru; we are bringing in communities from Kasuwan Magani, Kujama which border Chikun local government, Kufana and all the other adjourning communities, to ensure that the peaceful coexistence amongst the Adara, the Hausa and Fulani communities in Kajuru local government is sustained. We are happy with the level of peace that we are witnessing in the area now, even though insecurity is a huge challenge. But notwithstanding, there are a lot that needs to be done in restoring the community to the path of sustainable peace. So, we are not leaving out other parts of Kaduna state in our assignment.
The work of the Peace Commission centres around advocacy, but has the commission prosecutorial powers?
The mandate of the Peace Commission gives it the power to invite and seek for explanation, from any citizen of the state, who makes utterances or who has taken actions capable of undermining the peaceful coexistence of the state. So, we are not a prosecuting authority per se but we have the powers to invite people and to ask them to provide explanations. And where we feel their actions are capable of undermining peaceful coexistence, we also have the power to refer the issue to relevant authorities. But principally, our fundamental work is to try to bring disputing parties together to achieve peace or to avert where conflict may occur.
What will interest the people of Kaduna state and the nation at large to know is that with the support from the United Nations Development Programme, and Kaduna State Government, we have developed one of the most robust ICT-based early warning and response centres. We have about 11 computers within our office here, where we can receive immediate information on anything relating to possible breach of peace or the activities of criminal groups. We have established functional working relationship with what we call our responders, which include our traditional leaders, religious leaders, local government administrators, the Nigerian Police, the National Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Department of State Security and the Nigerian Army or Armed Forces in general. So, from our Situation Room, we are able to receive immediate reports and prompt responses. So, what citizens may wish to know is that so many conflicts have been averted because of the early response of the commission, based on information that our responders have been providing. So, we are strongly appealing to our people to inform the relevant authorities in case of any breach of peace and security, so that immediate action can be taken. Like in the Southern senatorial zone as well as the Central zone, particularly in Birnin Gwari, Giwa and Igabi local governments, so many incidences were stopped before they occurred.
What tangible result has the Kaduna State Peace Commission achieved since it was created about four years?
This is one of the most critical questions that I have been asked. The answer should be put in context. There are appointments where one can show a building, a road or the number of graduates that you have been able to produce as an outcome. In our own case, we can only provide contextual achievements that we have recorded. If you look at Kajuru local government for example, the level of violence and heated acrimony and the hatred that was growing between the Adara, Hausa and Fulani communities, which had started over ten years, when they were living in an uneasy calm, have reduced. It was achieved through organisations like the Kaduna State Peace Commission; they have restored that local government to the level of peace and stability that we are seeing today.
If you look at the extent of the conflicts between farmers and pastoralists before the coming of this administration and the level of devastation as a result all over the state, from Makarfi to Ikara, moving to Giwa up to many parts of Chikun and Lere, especially some of the frontline local governments, have also reduced. It is surprising that at a migratory period like this, there is no massive violence, it is because of the interventions of this administration as well as the Kaduna State Peace Commission. Again, if we move to the Southern part of the state, the 2011 post-election violence created one of the greatest acrimonies in that area that has become so difficult to deal with. This was the outcome of other grievances that were building. So, addressing this within a period of about five years is a herculean task and we are still confronting these challenges. But with the support of Kaduna state government, and some of the reforms that it carried out, especially those that relate to the traditional institutions, and the strengthening of the District Heads within these domains, we have gradually beginning to see peace.
Our success really lies in the extent to which we are collaborating and partnering with other government institutions in Kaduna state. Happily, we can also beat our drums and say we have achieved greatly in our collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Ministry of Local Government, Kaduna State Interfaith Bureau, Christian Association of Nigeria, Jama’atul Nasril Islam and many national and international Civil Society Organisations. So, we have been able to create a formidable platform for those who want to promote peace to come and work in the state.
PEACE COMMISSION Facts:
-Governor Nasir El-Rufai nominated an Anglican Cleric, Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, as pioneer Chairman of Kaduna State Peace Commission in September 2017;
-Priscilla Yachat Ankut was also nominated as Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive, while Dr Saleh Bashayi Momale and Hajiya Khadijah Hawaja Gambo were nominated as permanent commissioners;
-The governor sent the nominations to Kaduna State House of Assembly;
-Dr. Idowu-Fearon, former Archibishop of Kaduna Archdiocese of the Anglican Church, is the Secretary-General of the UK-based worldwide Anglican Communion;
-Idowu-Fearon is a household name in peace advocacy and inter-religious harmony in Nigeria, having established the Kaduna Centre for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations;
-Ankut is an expert in democratic governance, with specific experience in human rights, inclusive political processes, justice sector reforms, conflict prevention and peace building;
– Her country experience spans South Africa, Gambia, Rwanda, Malawi and Nigeria, where she has supported democratisation processes in various capacities;
– Ankut had worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Malawi as the technical specialist in democratic accountability;
-Dr. Momale is a development Geographer at the Centre for Dryland Agriculture, Bayero University, Kano;
-He is a former Executive Director of The Pastoral Resolve, a Non-Governmental Organization working in the areas of pastoralists’ education, conflict management and pastoral resource development in Nigeria;
-Hajiya Gambo is a gender rights activist, social entrepreneur and conflict resolution expert, who has been active in Plateau and neighbouring states, has been involved in several peace initiatives facilitated by the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD);
-After four years of distinguished service, Mrs Ankut took up new responsibilities with the African Union;
-Dr Momale succeeded her as the Executive Vice-Chairman of the commission and Mrs Rebecca Sako-John came on board as permanent commissioner.
-Sako-John is the Executive Director of League of Democratic Women and an experienced Technical Support Advisor with a demonstrated history of working in the civic & social organization industry;
-Skilled in Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Policy Analysis, Public Speaking, Capacity Building, and Teaching, she has a Master’s degree focused in International Human Rights law from American University.