Residents of Angwan Sakwai, one of the three villages in Bondon District in Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State, who were invaded recently by gunmen, recounted their ordeal in the hands of the invaders which led to the death of 119 of their kinsmen. John Shiklam who visited the area reports
From distance, it was clear that Angwan Sakwai has lost her children. Trembling voices of the wailing widows; the cries of mothers who lost their children and the weeping of men whose wives were burnt to ashes made a cacophony of …that suggested all was not well with Angwan Sakwai.
Angwan Sakwai in Bondon District of Kaura Local Government in Kaduna State is one of the three villages attacked by rampaging and blood thirsty gunmen who came for their lives and property on the night of Friday, March 14.
One of the victims, Mrs Paulina Duniya, a grandmother was seen weeping and rolling on the grave of her children and other kinsmen when THISDAY visited the village last week.
It was there that mass burial was done for 57 people killed in the village by the invaders believed to be fulani herdsmen.
Truly, Duniya was in great pain and she refused to be comforted, because her husband, children, grandchildren and three daughters in-law and all that she had laboured for in her over 50 years on earth are no more.
THISDAY gathered that the invaders struck at about 11:00pm when the villagers were asleep. So it was the sound of gunshots from the intruders that woke them up from their sleep. And as they attempted to escape, they ran into the hands of their killers who had strategically positioned themselves for the onslaught.
Survivors of the attack said their killers came in vehicles and parked at the boundary between their village and Riyom Local Government in Plateau State.
The villagers told THISDAY that they woke up confused, not knowing what was happening as the shootings became sporadic and everyone in the village started running out of their homes for escape.
According to one eyewitness account, as the villagers ran out they were fell by the bullets of their attackers. The invaders said to be about 100 in number also pursued after the villagers with machetes and knives.
According to the villagers explosives were used to demolish or set houses ablaze as everybody in the village while the attack lasted.
Children, women and old people who were not too lucky, were caught and butchered with knives according to narration by some of the villagers who survived the attack. Some of the victims were trapped and burnt inside their homes.
The invaders also looted and made away with phones of their victims. For the villagers, it was the most horrific and barbaric experience ever in their life.
THISDAY gathered that a total of 119 people killed in the three villages were given mass burial in their various villages.
Those who survived the attack in Angwan Sakwai were looking traumatised and hopeless when THISADY visited on March 17. Some were still in a state of shock as well.
One of the survivors, a 42-year-old Mrs. Esther Peter said everybody was terrified when the bandits started shooting.
“It was in the night and we had all gone to bed before they came for us. We suddenly heard the sound of gunshots totally strange to us. The sporadic shootings were followed by a big bang. That sound came from an explosion. The next thing we started hearing the shout of Allah Akbar.
“We were so terrified and we started running in different directions. In fact, many of us ran naked, because as we were running our cover clothes that we managed to take out of the houses to cover our bodies started falling off from our bodies. And while a few of us ran to safety, others were not so lucky. Our small children and those who are too old to run were caught and slaughtered like animals.
“Women who came around to sympathise with us gave us these clothes to cover our nakedness. You can see that the intruders burnt down all our houses, so we are now homeless.
“We are being accommodated at the primary school but we come back here every morning to receive people who come to sympathise with us. When it is night we go back to the school to eat and sleep.”
Also narrating her ordeal, another survivor, Hanatu Bulus said although she and her family members escaped miraculously,their house was not spared as it was burnt down by the invaders.
“My family escaped, but they burnt our house and everything to ashes. We don’t really know where we are going to start from. We don’t know what warranted this kind of wickedness. But we leave them to God. God is the ultimate judge of all things.
“The bloods of the innocent people that have been killed are crrying out to God and I believe that God who sees everything will surely bring the killers to justice,” she said.
Bulus, 47, has a message for the Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Muktar Yero.
She said: “Help us tell the governor that his fulani brothers have killed all Maroa people and he should not come here to campaign for votes during elections, because we will not vote for him. Let his fulani brothers vote him.
“These people are fulanis, nobody can deny it because we saw them, two of them that we know so well who were part of the attack were killed, so nobody should deny that they are not fulanis.
“The soldiers refused to come when we sent distressed call. They came after the fulanis had killed many of our kinsmen and burnt our houses.”
Another resident of the village, James Markus, who survived the attack, said a bullet missed him narrowly, but his house was reduced to ashes.
“My wife and children travelled to Kaduna so I was the only one at home. I was woken up from sleep by the sound of gunshots and shouts of Allah Akbar.
“I saw my neighbours’ houses went up in flames, so I quickly stepped out. I was confused and I was thinking of the direction to run to. As I was running towards the bush, they shot at me, the bullet missed me narrowly. I resorted to running in zigzag. I got to a bush and I climbed a tree.
“I watched the thick flames coming out as they set our houses ablaze with explosives. I felt bad that as a man, I had no weapon to defend my community.
“It was horrifying. We are devastated, because majority of the people in this community have been killed,” he said.
The operation which started at about 11:00pm was said to have lasted till about 4:00pm despite distressed calls to soldiers in the area.
According to a community leader in the area, Mr. Nuhu Wane, when the incident happened, efforts were made to alert the security men in the area. Their effort was however hampered by poor telephone networks, which made telephone calls very difficult.
“Calls were not going through, so I had to quickly drive to one of the several military checkpoints along the Manchok – Jos road to inform them.
“I reported to the soldiers at the checkpoint about what was going on, they also saw the flames of fire that was coming from the area, unfortunately to my dismay, the soldiers said there was nothing they could do because they don’t have an order and that they were being transferred and most of their men were moved to Zonkwa, and that besides, there was no fuel in their vehicles.
“I asked them to reach out to soldiers at the next checkpoint but they refused, saying that the area is part of Plateau State and that they were not allowed to cross boundaries.
“We waited to see what they will do, two hours later they came with their vehicle called APC. We thought they will move to the place immediately but they delayed for another one hour and the killings and looting went on for about three and half hours.
“I have told the General Officer Commanding (GOC), One Division in Kaduna when he visited and I think it is important the federal government knows that there is no synergy between the soldiers here in Kaduna state and the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Jos, Plateau state.
“The checkpoint is not up to a kilometre from here and soldiers would have moved into the villages with ease, but they said they had to pass through the boundaries of Plateau and they are not allowed. I cannot see the military in the same country, where lives are being lost saying they cannot go to another place within the same country to safe lives because of boundary issues. To me this is unimaginable.
“If the federal government will come out with a policy that the federal troop is responsible to every Nigerian, then it will go a long way to address the situation.”
Wane said the bandits operated with the same style and ferocity in the other three villages that were attacked.
He described the appearance of the invaders as that of soldiers going to war. “They wore military uniforms on top of black clothes and they carried sophisticated weapons – guns, machetes and knives- and the only difference between them and soldiers was that they had rubber shoes on. The fulanis really prepared themselves for the operation as you can see from the killings and destructions. They used explosives to burn the houses.
“It will interest you to know that, some of the villagers were courageous enough and managed to kill four of the bandits before the bandits killed them.
“Two of the bandits that were killed during the attack, were fulanis that were well known to the community so it is no more a question of unknown gunmen as some people, especially security agencies always say,” Wane stated.
According to him, over 2000 refugees were being camp at the model primary school in the area while several others people were squatting with relations and kindhearted individuals.
He lamented the near absence of government presence in the area and appealed to the state government to make its presence felt by providing the community with some basic facilities.
“We have been displaced and we need urgent assistance from government. If the villagers were armed like the fulanis, they would have repelled the attack.
The communities in the southern part of Kaduna State, Plateau, Taraba and Benue States have been under frequent attack in recent times.
According to the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), an umbrella body for all the ethnic groups in the Southern part of Kaduna state, over 40 attacks had been launched on various communities in the area since 2011.
President of SOKAPU, Dr. Ephraim Goje, at a news conference in Kaduna said the perpetrators have been identified as Fulani herdsmen, but each time such observation is raised, the Fulani socio-cultural organisations within the state has outrightly denied any involvement in the attacks.
But Goje insisted that the Fulani herdsmen are carrying out the dastard act on the villages as they moe about. “What comes to our minds now is that, truly, the Fulanis have unofficially declared war on our people. Let it be placed on record that no community has the monopoly of violence, so our people are being pushed to a level that we may take certain actions aimed at defending ourselves and our land in order to put an end to this impunity,” he said.
He further regretted the lack of collaboration between the security agencies in Kaduna and Plateau States, stressing that the attackers came in from the Plateau axis to attack Atakar and Marwa chiefdoms in Kaduna State and each time the bandits are chased by security agents from Kaduna State, they run over to Plateau State where they walk freely celebrating their so-called victories.
He called on the federal government to urgently consider request for the establishment of a Military Barracks within the radius of 25 kilometres of Kafanchan Town so that they can quickly respond to all issues concerning security challenges in that area.
He disclosed that presently, there are a total of over 5000 internally displaced persons in the various attacks that require rehabilitation and compensation from government especially that their houses, food stuffs and other belongings were completely burnt down by these monstrous murderers.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Yero has condemned the attack describing it as ungodly and barbaric.
Yero who was on his way to the United States when the incident happened, had to abandon the trip to return home.
The governor in a statement by his Director General on Media and Publicity, Ahmed Maiyaki, said he was concerned over the unwarranted attacks on innocent citizens in the state.