One crisis, multiple accounts

News and Press Release
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Killings in Kaduna state and the Northwest region, in general, have taken different understandings. The state has arguably become the epicentre of armed banditry in the Northwest region due to scale and frequency of attacks. Over 77 fatalities were reportedly recorded in July 2020. Expectedly, the unending cases of violent deaths in the state are pushing discussions towards finding durable solutions. However, there is disagreement on the triggers of violence among stakeholders in the state. While the Kaduna state government has blamed the killings on clashes between youths in some communities over farmland, which have spilled over to other parts of Southern Kaduna, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body of churches in Nigeria, says herdsmen are causing the killings.

It is abundantly clear that there is no consensus on the factors fueling the Kaduna crisis. This is a recipe for more tragedy. As formal and informal actors in the state continue to bicker about causes, efforts to find solutions will only result in minimal success. Security measures must involve everyone. If religious groups do not agree with the government’s claim, they may decide not to work with it in finding durable peace. Kaduna state has usually been linked with religious wars, such that religious institutions and actors are an important component for any policy framework to address the crisis. Earlier in July 2020, the Federal government said that the Kaduna crisis was driven by politics and retaliatory attacks, suggesting that there was no grand conflict triggering violence in the region. On the 10th of July 2020, Nigeria’s Defense Headquarters (DHQ) announced the possibility that migrant terrorists from the Northeast were now operating in the Northwest with sophisticated weapons. However, anecdotal accounts, continue to claim ethnoreligious cleansing going on in the area.

Perceptions and suspicions that have been allowed to fester will continue to create new vistas for violence. The discord between and among some sections of the society and the government may exacerbate tension in the violent-prone areas. Opposite views of government and affected community members may create an impression that government is not ready to address what people feel is the root cause of the attacks. This may lead to indulgence to self-defence and retaliatory attacks as already claimed by the Federal government. Therefore, the state must move to accommodate local concerns and views such that the perceptions of bias are dismantled. Government must reinvigorate local dialogues to be used as platforms for aggregating local interests and grievances. Local platforms for inter-community and inter-group conversations must be promoted as an alternative to self-help violence.

There is a need also to commission independent research to understand the nature of violence in the state. There should be no room for rule of the thumb, as avoidable deaths keep recurring. The study should be able to move beyond ethnoreligious, political and personal-interest underpinnings to examine the causes of the attacks. The study findings should be positioned to give recommendations on how best to address the issue. The Northwest crisis appears to be treated with kids’ gloves while avoidable deaths become a norm. Government must move to ensure effective securitisation of areas prone to attacks while an independent investigation is carried out to examine the causes of the unending cycle of violence.