by Evelyn Okakwu,
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has said that at least 50,000 houses have been raised by herdsmen in Jama’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State since May.
According to the CAN president, Samson Ayokunle, about 10,000 people have been displaced with over 30,000 hectares of farmland destroyed within the period.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday on the activities of herdsmen in the area, the association said scores of lives were also lost following attacks by herdsmen on farmers within communities in Jama’a Local Government Area.
The secretary of CAN in one of the affected communities, Chawaison Nathan, said the community he lives and works at, Godogodo, is now desolate as indigenous dwellers of the village have been forced to flee their land after repeated attacks by herdsmen, in various communities surrounding Godogodo as well as within the village.
“From Ninte down to Gidan waya; 95 per cent of those villages earn their source of livelihood from farming; they are not civil servants. That was how the crisis spread from Ninte to Godogodo and beyond.
“21 villages are without security. There is religious sentiments among the security agencies. While the media keeps reporting that these are unknown men; for us this is amazing, because the people we saw are not unknown. They are people we know from our community,” said Mr. Nathan.
Mr. Nathan, a pastor, said the communities, mostly dominated by Christians, have for months been faced with cruel attacks by herdsmen, even after peace treaties were signed by farmers and herdsmen in the area.
“The peace treaty was signed on August 1. After it was signed, we heard of an attack on couples who were shot at their farm. At least seven members of my church were killed; I narrowly escaped death,” he added.
Another community leader, Gagi Ampot, blamed government for the increased nature of crimes committed by the herdsmen.
He said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has exhibited an outright neglect for the role of community leaders in checkmating rural clashes.
“The entire village I rule was burnt down completely. Yet nothing has been done. We are being treated as second class citizens in our own country. Since President Buhari came in, I have not been paid my salaries for 17 months,” he narrated.
Mr. Ayokunle called on President Buhari to mobilize security forces to address the situation urgently.
He said a lot of complications have emerged from government’s failure to squarely address the problem.
In his reaction to the allegations, a spokesperson for the herdsmen, Saleh Bayero, said the herdsmen were first attacked by farmers before the ‘reprisal’ attacks.
“They were the ones that attacked the herdsmen first. This issue began since 2011. But because our people are not good with (publicity), no one knows about their attacks.
“We had told them that herdsmen have leaders everywhere. We said that no, whenever herdsmen destroy their crops, they should come and tell us; we will make sure that they pay for it. That whoever is responsible takes responsibility for his actions. None of them have ever come to us,” he said.
Nigeria’s Senate had on November 15 called for a declaration of “security emergency” in Southern Kaduna, following repeated attacks by herdsmen.
The call followed a motion by Danjuma La’ah (PDP-Kaduna), who told the Senate at plenary that since 2011 many communities in the senatorial district had been consistently attacked by herdsmen.
He said that such attacks had resulted in deaths, loss of property and displacement of indigenes of the communities.
Mr. La’ah noted that the district was substantially agrarian with large arable and fertile lands.
“We are aware that there has been regular attack by armed herdsmen, the latest being on the 15th and 16th October 2016 in Godogodo community in Jama’a Local Government Area.
“Subsequent to the attacks, these herdsmen have virtually occupied the displaced communities and are grazing their cattle freely,” the lawmaker said.