'Nothing like land-grabbing,' El-Rufai blames banditry for Southern Kaduna bloodshed

El-Rufai says criminality in Southern Kaduna is erroneously interpreted along ethno-religious lines.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai says criminals are merely exploiting the political nature of the situation to their advantage [Daily Trust]

Southern Kaduna has been the crime scene of many attacks on rural communities with many lives lost over the years.

An attack in Zikpak village last week led to the gruesome murder of 10 people, the youngest of them a 5-year-old boy.

Houses, vehicles, and other property were also burnt, a feature of the frequent attacks that have plagued communities in Southern Kaduna.

Many have attributed ethnic and religious motivations to the attacks, with Muslim Fulani youths usually blamed for an alleged genocidal campaign against the predominantly Christian population of the region.

However, while speaking during an interview on Channels Television on Thursday, July 30, 2020, El-Rufai said the main cause of the recent attacks is banditry, a term used mostly to describe organised crime that has grown across the northern region.

He said Southern Kaduna is more 'headline-grabbing' because Kaduna is ethnically diverse and has had a long history of ethno-religious intolerance, but that its situation is not any different from the banditry problems witnessed in other northwestern states like Sokoto, Zamfara, and Katsina.

He said, "However, when it comes to Southern Kaduna as I said, it's given a completely different interpretation.

"There's nothing like land-grabbing because not one person can give an instance of any community that has been displaced, and totally occupied by these bandits.

"Because these bandits if we know where they are, we get the Army and Air Force to attack them. We're killing them every single day."

While speaking earlier this week, Commander of Operation Safe Haven, Major-General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, said the crisis is not one-sided, and is not an ethnic genocide as alleged.

"What we have or had were attacks on some communities and reprisal attacks. It has nothing to do with ethnic cleansing," he said.

Okonkwo blamed the cycle of violence on Kataf youths, Fulani militias, and the criminal elements of both sides.

"We've had killings on both sides, though the reports are not balanced. Both sides are involved," he said.

El-Rufai appealed in his Thursday interview that residents of Kaduna must learn to live peacefully with one another and resolve disputes through lawful means instead of resorting to self-help.

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