Nigeria: Tension in Southern Kaduna As Community Presume Missing Leaders' Dead

Renewed attacks after months of relative peace and stability are provoking fresh fears in the area.

The three community leaders, who went missing after an attack in Southern Kaduna's Zangon Kataf area a month ago are still not found and the community has presumed them dead amid renewed tensions in the area.

The leaders - Pate Usman Kurmi, the Wakilin Fulani of Atyap Chiefdom; Muhammadu Anchau, an Ardo from Bauchi State; and Yakubu Muhammadu - are of Fulani extraction.

On Tuesday, a Fulani ardo, Tanko Yero, led his kinsmen to the palace of the Agwatyap, Dominic Yahaya, to commiserate with the monarch over the presumed passing of the Wakilin Fulani, Mr Kurmi.

The Agwatyap is the paramount ruler of Atyap Chiefdom and has a member of his council the Wakilin Fulani, who represents the Fulani population of the chiefdom.

PREMIUM TIMES saw the Fulani mourn with the monarch on Tuesday. He received other mourners and had earlier visited the family of the Wakilin Fulani to sympathise with them.

"People already considered the three persons, prominent individuals, dead one month after they are not found," said Ismaila Abdallah, a Fulani youth leader, who also visited the monarch, and assistant secretary of the chiefdom's peace and security committee.

The attack

PREMIUM TIMES' findings, based on disclosures by official and community sources, revealed that the Fulani delegation, formed of the three missing leaders and two others, had, on Sunday, March 21, visited the Gora District of Atyap (Kataf) Chiefdom in Zangon Kataf, to pay compensation to secure the release of their cattle, which had destroyed crops - a typically common occurrence in Nigeria's outdated open grazing system.

On their return to Zonkwa, also in Zangon Kataf, in a car driven and owned by an Atyap local leader, Ayuba Bungon, they were attacked by armed persons. "The car (in which they were travelling) was later found vandalized and empty," said Samuel Aruwan, the commissioner for internal security and home affairs.

The location of the attack was Masat, an ethnic Bajju area, said John Bala, the chairman of the Atyap Chiefdom Community Peace and Security Partnership Committee (CPSP), which has been working towards peace and common understanding among the Hausa, Fulani, and Atyap communities.

Three persons were separately found within 24 hours of the attack - Mr Bungon and two Fulani men, namely Yusuf Dauda and Gomma Audu. But the three Fulani leaders remain unfounded.

Police spokesperson for Kaduna, Jalige Mohammed, told PREMIUM TIMES, that the force had not declared the missing persons dead.

"Investigation is still ongoing and we have three suspects in our custody," he said. "One of them is the Ayuba Bungon because he was the one that assured that he was going to take them to Zonkwa and insisted that the military should not bother to escort."

Months after a peace summit was convened to halt a wave of violence last August, tensions are rising again in Zangon Kataf, with tit-for-tat killings and massive slaying of cows recorded since January.

The peace summit birthed the chiefdom's peace and security partnership committee, praised for helping to make peace in the historically crisis-ridden area - before the fresh threats.

"It extremely sad peace is threatened again," said Mr Bala. "But we are not discouraged. Only a few don't want peace. Peace is a process."

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