Will the signing of this pact bring to an end the killing of innocent lives in Southern Kaduna? Will it end the bloodshed in our villages? Is Miyyeti and SOKAPU sincere about this pact, to entrench lasting peace?
These questions and many more agitated the minds of the people, including the journalists that witnessed the signing of the peace agreement by the Miyyati Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU leadership, on 8th of April, 2014 in Kaduna.
Other representatives of southern Kaduna communities that were signatories to the peace agreement were Chairman Miyyeti Allah Kautal Hore Socio Cultural Association, Kaduna State Chapter, Dr. Ibrahim Abdullahi, Secretary Mobgal Fulbe Development Association state chapter, Ahmed Mairiga Yandeh.
Others include the National Chairman Moroa Development Association, Musa Abu Shayin, Bitrus E. Gwadeh, member SOKAPU, Barrister Sule A. Kwasau National Vice President 1, SOKAPU, Comrade Danjuma Sarki, Secretary General National Youth Council of Nigeria, State Chapter, Ishaya K, Samaila, National President, Attakar Community Development Association.
There were also Chief Mrs. Anna Avong, secretary Board of Trustees, SOKAPU and Ayuba Hassan, Chairman, Ladduga Development Association.
While the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Micheal Zuokumor DIG operations Nigeria Police. Kaduna State Police Commissioner, CP Umar. U. Shehu and DCP Operations Zone7 Headquarters, Abuja, DCP Sanusi .N. Lemu, signed on behalf of the Police in the state.
The signing of the peace pact was done publicly and facilitated by DIG Micheal E. Zuokumor, who led the Security and Peace committee set up by the Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Abubakar Dahiru, to find a solution to the ongoing crisis between suspected Fulani headsmen and farmers across the country, particularly in Northern Nigeria.
It would be recalled that MACBAN and SOKAPU members have been living peacefully with each other for a very long time but since year 2000, there have been cases of serious clashes between MACBAN, who have been living in the southern parts of the state for many years peacefully.
The crisis in that part of the state became worse after the post election violence in the year 2011 which claimed many lives in the area. The post election violence later took another dangerous dimension with attacks and reprisals, which left in its wake, many deaths and wanton destruction of properties.
According to the leadership of the communities, the incessant killings and the constant blaming of each other that made them to resolve to condemn unequivocally the violence and through the signing of the pact, declared a cease fire with a view to creating enabling environment for dialogue so that enduring peace can return to their homes and families.
It was gathered that the recent attacks on three villages in Kaura Local government of the state generated condemnation from all quarters of the federation.
The attack forced the state governor, Dr Muktar Ramalan Yero to cut short his trip to the United States of America, and rush back home to sympathise with the victims.
Speaking when the committee paid him a courtesy call at the Government House, Yero said “it is only through active interaction with those directly affected that the panel can identify the true causes as well as find solutions to the crises.
He said rather than hold reconciliation meetings with elites who are the ones escalating the situation for selfish aims, “the meeting should be held in Kaura and other affected communities in order to involve people at the grassroots, so that you can sit down with the natives and Fulanis to resolve the matter.”
The Governor thanked the IGP for setting up the committee saying dialogue remains the only panacea to the present predicament of the country.
He said State Government is presently collaborating with traditional institutions in its effort at improving surveillance within communities with the target of monitoring movements and mission of strangers.
The Governor then called on the Zuokumor led committee to also address the issue of reprisals and revenge saying “security agencies must ensure the prosecution of anyone found culpable in an offence and in accordance with the laws of the land.”
At the signing of the peace pact, DIG Zuokumoh said the IG was worried over the ongoing attacks carried out by gunmen in some parts of the country which led to the setting up of the Security and Peace Reconciliation Committee.
The committee, he said, was saddled with the responsibility of going round to affected states to meet with the people directly affected with the aim of finding a lasting solution to the killings.
According to him, it was not fair for people who have been living together for decades to wake up one morning and start killing each other.
IGP Zuokumor said the committee has succeeded in midwifing reconciliation between natives and herdsmen in troubled communities in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states where relative peace and calm has returned.
State chairman of Miyetti, Alhaji Ahmad Sulaiman expressed happiness at witnessing what he called the “very important day of his life”, although he always disassociated his people from the attacks in thearea, he said with the signing of the peace pact his group would arrest any bad egg amongst them.
Saying, “We are appealing to our people wherever they are to end the killings because violence will never solve anything. We on our part, with the peace agreement, we are ready to expose anybody that tries to breach this peace agreement between us and SOKAPU,” he said.
Similarly, Dr, Ephraim Goje, on the side of SOKAPU, also appealed to all the aggrieved parties to sheath their sword and embrace peace.
“We are appealing to all the aggrieved parties to please forgive one another. Please lets forgive and forget what happened so that peace will reign in our communities,” he said.
The state Commissioner of Police, Umar Shehu also sounded optimistic when he commended the courage of MACBAN and SOKAPU leaderships for agreeing to sit on the same table with the sole aim of putting an end to the killings in their communities.
The recommendations contained in the peace agreement which was read out publicly for journalists and other community leaders present, include, the establishment of peace and reconciliation commission by the state government, the need to establish mobile and military units in Kafanchan and Birnin- Gwari for quick response to security challenges. It stated also that the movement of people should be closely monitored by government in collaboration with traditional rulers and other relevant agencies.
Government, they said should make all efforts to reach out to all nomadic pastoralists and other internally displaced persons (IDPs) for the purpose of giving them some palliatives and encouraging them to return to their original places of abode.
The need to return to the traditional intelligence gathering mechanism was also stressed. They also agreed on the need for joint community policing comprising of all ethnic groups to complement effort of security agencies.
Other recommendations were the need by government to complete the Gazetting of all grazing reserves, stock routes and providing herdsmen with complete facilities while proliferation of small and medium arms should be seriously checked.
The agreement called for implementing of all recommendations of all previous committees established by the state government on peace and reconciliation.
The two parties also agreed that the perpetrators of all the dastardly acts must be arrested and brought to justice.
The groups cautioned the print and electronic media on projecting sensational stories and unfounded reports even as they urged relevant authorities to sanction any erring media organization. They also urged community leaders to stop making inflammatory statements.
However, a cross section of residents of Kaduna, who spoke to Peoples Daily, expressed hope that the signing of the peace pact between the warring groups would be good omen for not only Kaduna, but the country as a whole as Nigerians crave for lasting peace.