At least 33 people are thought to have died in attacks on five communities in the Atyap Chiefdom in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area (LGA), southern Kaduna State, on 5 and 6 August. The attacks occurred despite the existence of a 24-hour curfew.
In the first attack, which occurred at around 11pm on 5 August, armed men of Fulani ethnicity who were reportedly travelling in trucks attacked Apiashyim and Kibori villages. Six people died and 20 homes were burnt down in Apiashyim, and seven people were killed in Kibori. A survivor of the attack on Apiashyim informed Nigerian media that security operatives were made aware of the attack while it was underway, but only arrived after it was over: “The security agencies are not here to protect us but to serve the interest of those attacking us.”
The militia went on to attack the Atakmawei community at around 12am on 6 August, killing 12 people and burning down 10 homes. Subsequent simultaneous assaults on Apyiako and Magamiya villages claimed three and five lives respectively, and several houses were burned down in both locations.
According to survivors from Apyiako who hid amongst maize crops during the attack on their village, a truck resembling an armoured military vehicle and military motorcycles drove into the village square while the attack was underway, but no attempt was made to stop the destruction. Survivors also informed the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) that Fulani youth who were born and raised in the affected villages were among the militia that attacked them: “They would come to a compound and shout out the name of the occupants challenging them to come out and face them.”
The attacks are the latest in a sustained campaign of violence targeting farming communities in southern Kaduna which has been ongoing since January 2020, and which surged during July. They continue to occur despite government assertions that the area enjoys comprehensive security coverage, and the existence of a 24-hour curfew, which has been in effect in Zangon Kataf and Kauru LGAs since 11 June, and which was recently extended to cover Jema’a and Kaura LGAs, also in southern Kaduna.
So far, no attackers have been intercepted or apprehended. However, four local youths from Majuju and Kibori villages who breached the curfew to tend to farmlands were arrested, detained in Kaduna Metropolis, and have reportedly denied bail since 26 June. Additionally, according to SOKAPU, during the curfew “Fulani herders have been wandering freely and grazing over large swathes of maize farms of […] locked up farmers.”
The lengthy lockdown has engendered shortages of finance, food and medicines. In a statement issued on 6 August SOKAPU described how “parents cannot go out and look for food for their starving children. The sick are trapped at home. No one wants to risk the brutality of the military that are enforcing the curfew. Even if the curfew is lifted, freely grazing cattle herded by armed Fulani men have eaten up and trampled over thousands of hectares of grain farms, yam farms, [and] sugar cane crops among others.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We extend our deepest condolences to the victim communities and particularly to families who have lost loved ones in appalling violence which ought to have been prevented. The fact that these attacks continue is a damning indictment of Governor el Rufai’s decision to extend the duration and scope of a 24-hour curfew that had manifestly failed. Instead of protecting villagers the curfew not only subjects them to privations, but also makes them sitting targets for militia who continue to attack at will. CSW urges the European Union and the governments of the UK and US to ensure that humanitarian assistance is allocated towards assisting and rehabilitating these and other victims, and to press for release of the four Atyap youth whose detention increasingly appears to be arbitrary. Finally, the disturbing allegations of survivors regarding the failure of security personnel to intervene in ongoing violence and apprehend the perpetrators require swift, transparent and independent verification. We therefore reiterate our call for urgent international interventions, including the convening of a special session on the human rights situation in central Nigeria by the UN Human Rights Council, with particular focus on current violations in southern Kaduna and Plateau State.”