Monday, August 2, 2021

It’s Funny Kaduna Bandits Receive ‘Recharge Cards’ As Ransoms, But Government Claims They Can’t Be Tracked –SOKAPU Youth President, John

The youth President of the Southern Kaduna People’s Union, Isaac John, speaks to GODFREY GEORGE about the insecurity ravaging the region and what he feels the government should do to arrest the situation Kaduna State has been held by the jugular by criminal elements, particular bandits, who have been invading schools and abducting students.

How do you feel about this?

Only three months ago, some students of the Greenfield University were kidnapped and after millions of naira was paid as ransom some were released while some of the students were killed by the captors. In Southern Kaduna, one of our chiefs was kidnapped by herders and killed. Barely two years ago, a first-class chief, the Agom Adara, Dr Raphael Maiwada Galadima, was kidnapped and N7m ransom was demanded by the kidnappers, which was paid. He was killed, regardless. Before then, we had the Etum Numana, Chief Gambo Makama, killed along with his wife by their kidnappers. The Kop Ham, Jonathan Gyet Maude, was also kidnappers and N100m ransom is was demanded. This is the story of Southern Kaduna, a story of kidnapping, banditry and killings on a daily basis. Bandits and terrorists terrorise us every day.
The situation in Southern Kaduna is beyond what is being described as conflict and banditry; it is pure genocide. As we speak, the state government, led by the Governor Nasir El-Rufai, has not done anything. There are over 30 Internally Displaced Persons camps in Southern Kaduna alone. This is as a result of hundreds of people being displaced from their community as a result of this insecurity. Government has not done anything to ameliorate the sufferings of those IDPs in the camps. The major problem is that the IDPs are in very poor states. It has been people of goodwill in Southern Kaduna and the church that are helping them feed. The situation is really dire and discouraging. The governor, to the best of my knowledge, has never, for once, visited those IDPs or any of the communities being razed down by these militias. These things continue on a daily basis. These terrorists come into our communities whenever they like, rape our women, kill our men, destroy our farms and go scot-free like they have done nothing wrong.
We feel that there is a script that is being acted out. For the government to keep mute and the killings continue, that means there is more to this than meets the eye. We, as citizens of the state, submit our rights to the state, so they in turn, would protect us. But when they fail to protect those rights given to them, then, they have failed as a government, and we are faced with no choice than to collect our rights back. We have called for self-defence, but the government was quick to respond that there is nothing like that. But when communities are attacked at night, the security operatives come in the morning to arrest the youth. Why would any sane government do that? The attackers are free, but the attacked citizens are arrested? We also feel that there is an attempt to take over our land. There are more than one hundred communities razed down by these bandits.

What do you think these bandits want from the Southern Kaduna people?

I am not the attacker. The attackers know the reason they are attacking us. From my own thoughts, it feels like these people want to take over our land. That is the issue. As it stands now, communities have been razed down and occupied by these bandits. They are making attempts to rename those communities. For instance, Chief Agwolmadara, one of the paramount rulers of Southern Kaduna, was kidnapped and murdered. Immediately the news of his death filtered through the community, the government came up with a circular dividing his territory into three emirates inside Adara Chiefdom. This has never happened before. We don’t have an emirate system in Southern Kaduna. All of a sudden, the man was murdered and his territory taken over within two weeks. As we speak, there are emirates inside Kaduna and there are some communities where chiefs have not been appointed till date. So, we see a situation where they kill our people and target our traditional institutions. The idea behind this,  I feel, is once this traditional institution is being wiped out, the emirate system will come on board and the narratives would be changed. Government has never been sincere on the issues of insecurity in Kaduna. We have been calling for a state of emergency in Kaduna, but the state government, for reasons best known to them, have failed to listen to the issues. To me, Kaduna is already a failed state. Just a few days ago, the Ministry of Education released a circular that all schools in Kaduna should be closed.

Let us talk about attacks on schools and farms. If pupils stop school and farmers stop going to the farm for fear of attacks, wouldn’t this have a deep effect on the economy of the state?

In southern Kaduna, for example, when these attackers come to perform their evil enterprise, they go further into the farms and destroy our crops. The few ones left, herders will bring their cattle to feast on them. Our women can no longer go to their normal marketplaces where they transact business for fear of being attacked. So, the situation is that bad. Schools are being shut state-wide, so what could be worse than this? The governor, El-Rufai, in his own wisdom has not visited these IDPs to see how the people who voted him to office are doing. We strongly believe that with all these happenings, it is glaring that Kaduna is already a failed state. This is why we have been calling on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Kaduna, at least, to bring law and order in the state.

The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, is opposed to the idea of paying ransom to kidnappers and bandits in exchange for abductees.  What is your take on this?

We are all aware that in 2016, this same governor came out to tell the entire world that he had a meeting with these foreign militias where he paid them to stop killing people in Southern Kaduna. What would we call that? We know that any foreign interaction or negotiation, especially when it comes to issues of security and sovereignty, is a provision on the Exclusive Legislative List and no governor has the right to do any of the things. But we saw him do this in 2016. He said he paid them. That is something I cannot wrap my head around. Does that mean that he paid them so they could purchase more sophisticated military hardware? That he’s coming now in 2021, five years later, to tell us that we should not pay ransom and even if his family members are kidnapped he would not pay ransom is a political statement. We all know how tightly-secured his office and home are. If not, let him make his son vulnerable to kidnapping and let us see if he gets kidnapped, if he’d not pay.
There was a time he took his child to a public school and later went to remove him, saying he withdrew the son because of the insecurity in the state. He is the governor. Who should tackle insecurity in the state if not him? Who is he complaining to? You remove your child from school; other people’s children don’t matter, right? That is so selfish of him. That is the message he is sending to us. It is not supposed to be like this at all, but that is the situation we find ourselves in Southern Kaduna.

Recently, the first batch students of the Bethel Baptist High School were released after a ransom of N50m was paid and over 80 of these pupils are still in the kidnapper’s den. What is the situation of parents whose children were not released?

That is one incident in a hundred. Like I said, Southern Kaduna has been overtaken by bandits and terrorists. One of the executives of SOKAPU had his three uncles kidnapped in broad daylight from their own homes. So, the kidnapping now is already out of hand. In the case of the Baptist students, their parents were able to come up with N50m as ransom, but the bandits are insisting that the money is too small. We should understand, most importantly, that the government is not sincere in tackling insecurity. There was a time when a friend’s phone got missing. We reported the case to a police station. They requested the number to track the phone and in a matter of hours, they went to the exact location and got the phone from the criminal and got him arrested. It was almost like I was watching a movie with how smooth and seamless it was done. This is just one division of the police. Why is it that these bandits who kidnap people have a camp within the state, where a motorcycle can take one there to pay ransom, but the government cannot track them there? People send recharge cards to them as part of their demands. This means they have active phone lines and their numbers are not hidden, but nothing is being done. They demand motorbikes and they are given to them in their 20s, 30s and 50s. Can’t they use those same bikes to track them? Do you recall that some of those bandits speak to reporters from the British Broadcasting Corporation and other foreign media via Internet connection, and someone somewhere wants me to believe these people cannot be tracked? There is more than meets the eye, because they are well within our reach and they can be reached if we really are serious about stopping all these. We are calling on the government to step up their game and do the needful. They are criminals, they are terrorists and they don’t deserve to live among us. They have been killing us, kidnapping our people, raping our women and destroying our farms. It is that bad.

The FG said Nigerians should defend themselves when they feel threatened ….

How do we defend ourselves? There are laws prohibiting unlawful possession of firearms. The other time the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), issued a shoot-on-sight order against anyone carrying Ak-47 rifles. These bandits come with Ak-47 and the only thing we have is a kitchen knife, which we are supposed to use to cut onions and tomatoes for cooking. So, is that what we will use to defend ourselves against some people carrying AK-47 rifles? Absolutely no. The government is never sincere in tackling this insecurity. Except they want us to believe the Nigerian military is not capable of handling these crises? I won’t believe that. All they need now is the right motivation and the instructions to carry out their duties, not because they cannot do it. They can do it. They kill us, rename our communities, and install emirs within our chiefdoms. Why are they against our traditional institution?

Kidnapping in the state has almost become like a very lucrative trade. Don’t you think there are moles amongst you, who give our information to these bandits?

Well, we are not sure of that for now. We believe that these bandits are alien to us. They don’t spare anybody. We know the language they speak even when ransom is being paid. That is the truth.

There was a protest held by SOKAPU, what was it about?

We were protesting the incessant killings on our lands, demanding the government should intervene and curb the killing.

Did any government official come out to address you during this protest?

Let me tell you, in Kaduna now, if you come out to protest, the governor will order the military to shoot you. Some time back, state-owned institutions increased school fees by 500 per cent and students came out to protest the increase, the governor sent the military out. This is to show you how bad it is. We don’t expect that kind of leader who sends soldiers to his people to finish them all for exercising their civic rights.

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