At least 32 people were killed and an unknown number are missing following an attack on Adara communities in southern Kaduna state on 5 June by armed assailants on motorcycles who were reportedly assisted by a helicopter.
Local sources state that attackers of Fulani ethnicity descended on Ungwan Gamu, Dogon Noma, Ungwan Sarki and Maikori villages in the Kajuru Local Government Area (LGA) on approximately 150 motorcycles, each carrying three people. Wearing turbans and armed with AK-47s, the attackers destroyed a large number of homes and the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) buildings in Dogon Noma and Maikori. Of the 32 victims, 29 were from Dogon Noma, two were from Ungwan Sarki, and one was from Maikori.
According to the National President of Adara Development Association (ADA), Awemi Dio Maisamari, the attack started at around noon and continued until 6pm. Lamenting that “the pogrom against [the] Adara nation rages on,” Mr Maisamari added that the burial of victims on 6 June was disrupted when terrorists were sighted in nearby bushes: “Furthermore, many people are still missing and some of them are believed to have been abducted by the assailants.”
The Kaduna state government issued its first statement on the attack on 9 June, as news of the helicopter joining the militia attack began to spread widely, naming the victims and commiserating with the communities. The statement dismissed reports that a helicopter attacked members of the community, claiming that in reality “an Air Force helicopter (under Operation Whirl Punch) dispatched to the area, had earlier scanned the first two locations and sighted burnt houses and properties on fire. …[and] intercepted the bandits at the last location (Ungwan Maikori) and engaged them as they retreated before the arrival of ground troops,” allegedly deterring them from mounting further attacks.
However, survivors continue to insist that the helicopter attacked them. Villagers from Maikori contend that upon hearing of the ongoing attack on Dogon Noma, they evacuated women and children, gathered reinforcements to defend their village, and set an ambush for the terrorists. They allege that just as they were succeeding in driving the militia away, a white helicopter appeared and opened fire on them. As they fled, the terrorists entered their village, as the helicopter reportedly provided cover, and spent three hours destroying homes and the local ECWA Church, leaving a handful of buildings standing which were of little value.
The leader of the 1st ECWA Church in Maikori, Reverend Denis Sani, who also lost his home and possessions in the attack, informed the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) that “the helicopter did not hide its intention that it came to kill us and to help the armed Fulani to achieve what they wanted to do.” The reverend’s version of events was confirmed by other survivors, including the youth leader of Maikori village, who insisted: “the bullets were coming from the bottom of the helicopter straight at us. At first I thought it was a mistake, but it circled back, saw the position of the enemy, left them alone and started raining bullets at us and into our village.”
Kajuru LGA has been under regular attack since 2018, when the Adara paramount leader was abducted and murdered by Fulani assailants who are yet to face prosecution, and the predominantly Christian Chiefdom was subsequently balkanised and placed under two emirates, despite the fact that under 15% of the population in the area are Hausa or Fulani.
Dogon Noma was initially attacked on 11 March 2019, when 52 people were killed, dozens were injured, and houses burnt down. The first attack on Maikori occurred on 1 August 2019 when one person was killed, several were injured and homes were burnt down.
Reuben Buhari, Press Officer for CSW Nigeria said that “over 50 attacks have been documented on communities around that axis. In fact, there was a time when about 13 villages around Gefe were attacked between 20 May and 23 May 2020 – in just 3 days. Over 50 people were killed in those attacks with the survivors abandoning the villages. For more than a year, they couldn't go back to gather and bury those killed. At the height of all these attacks in Kajuru LGA, we recorded 12,480 IDPs scattered in different camps, with the 4,410 in Maraban Kajuru, 3,324 in Kufana, and the rest spread in other camps. Most ate food only through the goodwill of generous donors.”
The recent attacks are the first in which a helicopter is alleged to have opened fire on victim communities on behalf of militia men. Reports of a solitary helicopter assisting militia men initially emerged from survivors of sustained attacks on the Agatu area of Benue state in early 2016. There have also been unverified but recurring accounts from survivors of attacks in various remote locations in southern Kaduna state of a helicopter arriving prior to an attack that was suspected either to be conducting surveillance for or bringing supplies to attackers. However, CSW’s sources noted that when visiting people displaced by militia violence from previous attacks in Kajuru LGA, children began shaking and would run away at the sound of a passing helicopter, saying the sound often preceded an attack.
Eyewitness accounts of three assailants riding on each motorcycle are also consistent with the testimonies of survivors from communities in the Kanam LGA in Plateau state, where 142 people were killed in simultaneous attacks in April, and those from attacks on villages in Taraba and Kaduna states between 2017 and 2019, who informed CSW their assailants rode on motorcycles carrying three people, one driver and two shooters who would fire to the left and right respectively.
In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said: “it is important to note that this new dimension of a helicopter being used by Fulani terrorists is shocking but not unexpected as there have been bold signs written all over the place going by the chronology of the sophisticated terrorism that banditry by Fulani bloodletters has evolved into.”
CSW Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “Once again we extend our deepest condolences to all who lost loved ones in these appalling attacks in Kaduna state. We wish the injured a swift and full recovery and urge local authorities to provide for the displaced and to do everything in their power to ensure the safe return of all abductees. We also urge the government to ensure the swift repair and reconstruction of damaged properties, and to guarantee safety to those who seek to return. The relentless death and destruction constitute a damning indictment of the continuing failure by both levels of government to fulfil their primary mandate of protecting all citizens. Moreover, allegations of terrorists being assisted in their attacks by a helicopter cannot be dismissed so summarily, given the consistent testimonies from survivors, and ought to be a matter of the utmost concern, as they are a worrying indication either of possible terrorist infiltration into the armed forces, or of an alarming growth in the sophistication with which they are now able to operate. We call on federal and state authorities to significantly increase protections for vulnerable communities, many of which are targeted repeatedly, to intensify efforts to combat terrorist groups whose activities appear to be increasing across the country, and to seek immediate assistance from the international community to end the relentless slide into failed statehood.”
Notes to Editors
- The victims of the attacks on 5 June were: Ahmadu Musa, Audu Dandaura, Akilu Laya, David Wasika, Hajatu Buhari, Nashon Buhari, Iliya Yaki, Javan Mairabo, Jackson Adamu, Nasco Victor, Dutse Gwamna, Joshua Amadi, Gona Isah, Douglas Yakubu, Phineas Joel, Tanimu Umaru, Abody Iliya, Wanzami Halidu, Dogo Aweh, Sunday Shittu, Rejoice Audu, Jedidiah Ayawa, Jinkai Pius, Rebecca Ayafa, Ishaya John, Audu Danladi, Jibo Sule, Yakubu Garba and Williams Danbaba were killed in Dogon Noma village; Maikasa Kufana and Augustine Bahago were killed in Anguwan Sarki village; and Mamiya Maikori died in Maikori village
- A Government Gazette published in January 2022 designated nonstate actors operating in northwest Nigeria who were previously described “armed bandits”, as terrorists, extending this designation to “other similar groups in any part” of the country, and “especially in […] the north-central” region.