Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has called for peace over the string of attacks that have been recorded in the southern flank of the state.
The governor also said while “we are saddened by the loss of lives, we remain committed to (end) the legacy of violence that has blighted the state for 40 years.”
The governor made these calls at a meeting with the national leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) at the Government House on Tuesday.
“Our duty is to uphold a common citizenship, united in respect for the rule of law, equality of opportunity and promotion of the rights and liberties of everyone,” Mr El-Rufai said.
“We cannot allow our common humanity to be relegated and distorted by the obsession some of our compatriots have with identity politics which tend to divide rather than unite us.”
Nigeria, with over 200 ethnic identities, is a diverse country, but Kaduna is seen as one of the most diverse states in the country. This has oftentimes triggered a clash of differences among groups.
In recent months, the southern region of the state, largely dominated by Christians, have seen a wave of killings, reprisal attacks and a series of unrest.
But Mr El-Rufai said the clashes should not be seen under the lens of ethnicity, religion or other afflictions. Rather, it should be seen as a challenge to common humanity.
“Fidelity to the concept of a common humanity obliges us to see other human beings primarily as our own people too. Their other identities as Christians or Muslims or their ethnic ties are secondary to their core humanity. Let us uphold this banner of a common humanity and promote the right of all to life, liberty and livelihood,” he said.
“We challenge anyone to characterise or differentiate the communal clashes, attacks and killings in parts of northern and central Kaduna State, as well as in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Niger States from those in southern Kaduna.
“Is it because in all the other cases, the victims are lesser humans or lacking in voice and media hype? What happened to our common humanity?”
“We should avoid creating the impression that pain and suffering matter to us only according to the tribe or faith of the afflicted. And we should corroborate and verify, not rush to trumpet the claims made by those with whom we share ethnic or religious affiliations.”
He also faulted terming the conflict in the region as “land-grabbing and genocide.” This, he noted is “being used in this current cycle of conflict, just as they were in the 2016/17 and the 2011/2015 cycles.”
“We have requested and encouraged anybody to present evidence of any inch of land within Kaduna State that has been forcibly or illegally occupied.”
Efforts to end the crisis
Mr El-Rufai said in the bid to end the crisis, apart from beefing up the security in the regions, the communities also need to show a willingness to live in harmony and their resolve to settle differences through lawful means.
“Some people do not want to hear this because it imposes responsibilities on individuals and community leaders to keep the peace and obey the law, but it is the civilised way to go,” he remarked.
He noted that upon his first inauguration in 2015, a White Paper was prepared on the report of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee established by the government of late former governor Patrick Yakowa.
He said the government also initiated a White Paper process on the reports of the 1992 Justice Rahila Cudjoe Commission of Inquiry and the 1995 AVM Usman Muazu Peace and Reconciliation Committee, which is expected to be submitted soon.
He added that in 2015, the government “took action against the urban rascality of sara-suka gangs” and began to address banditry around Kamuku-Kuyambana forest through joint military and police action with other northwestern and Niger States.
The following year, he said, “the outbreak of sustained peace that we expected was soon shattered by a spiral of violence a few days later.”
In answering the decades-old calls for situating a security base in southern Kaduna, Mr El-Rufai said by 2017, his government had facilitated the establishment of an army base in Kafanchan while also buying an estate to accommodate a mobile police squadron.
“We established the Kaduna State Peace Commission to help encourage communities in our state to adopt peaceful means of resolving their differences,” he added.
“We will continue to support the security agencies to restore calm in the affected communities. Over the last five years, we have invested heavily in the security sector. We have consistently provided vehicles and other logistics support to the security agencies that are deployed in the state.
“We are also addressing the technology side of security, through the procurement of drones, the award of contracts to install CCTVs in phases in Kaduna, Kafanchan and Zaria metropolitan areas, build a command and control centre and establish a forensic laboratory,” Mr El-Rufai said.
Analysts often draw a parallel between poverty in the northern region and insecurity in the area. Fifteen of the 17 states, where the majority of residents are poorer than the national average of 40 per cent, are in the northern part of the country. In Kaduna, about 43.5 per cent are poor.
Unemployment in the state is still on the high as the state ranks among the top ten with the highest unemployment figure in Q2 2020.
Yet, last year, save the FCT, Kaduna — with about N45 billion — generated the highest revenue in the entire north. Kano and Kwara are the only other northern states in the top fifteen.
Governor El-Rufai said the administration is determined to continue to invest in human capital, and strengthen the health system and schools through infrastructural development, improved ease of doing business and economic stability.
“We have reformed governance, reducing waste and prioritising capital spending. Our budgets consistently have a 60:40 capital to recurrent ratio. We raised N44bn in IGR in 2019, a record in the history of the state and a far cry from the N13bn that was recorded in 2015. When we took office in 2015, we reduced ministries from 19 to 13 and started with only 13 commissioners whereas our predecessor had 24,” Mr El-Rufai said.
“We took the tough decision to sack 21,780 primary school teachers for failing a competency test, but we replaced them with 25,000 new ones. Our recruitment process is transparent and is based on merit.”
“People from other states consistently apply and are appointed if they meet the standards. We invest in youth through programmes like the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship and KADSTEP, apart from appointing many youths into the government. We have implemented a robust public service reform programme.”
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