*calls for immediate retraction, apology
By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
A group, Violent Incidents & Election Atrocity Fusion Centre (VIAFUC) has faulted the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai for announcing that 66 persons were killed in Kajuru, describing his action as a deliberate spreading of falsehood.
The group expressed this in a statement jointly signed by Hamsatu Allamin Abiodun Baiyewu, Gloria Ballason, Ken Henshaw, Ier Jonathan, Adamu Kotokorshi, Cheta Nwanze, Chidi Odinkalu, Kelechukwu Okezie and Sylvester Yibis, made available on Saturday February 16, 2019.
“We report that, sadly, the alleged attack and killings claimed by the Governor did not occur. Contrary to the claim of the Senior Special Assistant and the Governor of Kaduna State, the latest violent incident in the Kajuru area reportedly occurred around Sunday, 10 February, 2019, about 23:00 hours, at Adara.
“About 10 people were reported to have been tragically killed in the attack. They were buried the next day on 11 February by the Catholic Church. Many of the wounded were transferred for treatment to St. Gerard’s Hospital along Kachia Road in Kakuri, Kaduna. Indeed, a delegation from the state government visited them on Tuesday 12 February, 2019.
“Since this incident, Kajuru has been relatively calm and there have been no reprisal attacks. Community and faith leaders across the board have pressed the case for peace and pleaded with the people to avoid any acts that could disrupt their participation in the general elections.
“The VIAFUC affirms that the claim by Governor El-Rufai that 66 persons were killed in Kajuru is a piece of deliberate falsehood likely to instigate atrocity violence in these elections, capable of setting ablaze a fragile neighbourhood and of compromising the smooth running of election operations and of the safety of all involved in the elections,” it stated.
The group recalled that on February 15, 2019, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, Senior Special Assistant to Kaduna State Governor, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, released a statement on behalf of the Governor warning of the possibility of reprisal attacks, following the alleged killing of 66 persons in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
“Specifically, the statement listed the following areas as affected: Maro Gida and Iri. More specifically he alluded to: Ruga Bahago, Ruga Daku, Ruga Ori, Ruga Haruna, Ruga Yukka Abubakar, Ruga Duni Kadiri, Ruga Shewuka and Ruga Shuaibu Yau. Segregating the numbers, the statement claimed that among the casualties were 12 women and 22 children; and that four wounded persons rescued by security agencies were at the time receiving medical attention.
“Following the release of this statement, Governor Nasir El-Rufai went on national television to back its authenticity, claiming the killing of a specific ethnic group and alluding that the aim of the killers was to destabilize the polity, and predicting the likelihood of reprisal attacks.
“Having received no news of an attack in Kajuru from our monitors, some of whom are deployed in Southern Kaduna, the Violent Incidents & Election Atrocity Fusion Centre (VIAFUC) for #NigeriaDecides2019 established contact with residents and community leaders of Kajuru yesterday evening. Over the past 24 hours, we have trawled all possible sources and sent in two additional fact finders to verify these claims.
“As such, we condemn the conduct of the Governor and of Senior Special Assistant, Samuel Aruwan in the strongest possible terms. We note in particular, that the Governor’s claims were made without the support or presence of any officials of INEC, or of the responsible security agencies, including the State Security Service (SSS) and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).,” it stated.
The group demanded an immediate retraction of the information and an apology.
“We demand an immediate retraction by the Governor, and a public apology to the people of Kaduna state and Nigeria. We also invite law enforcement to take immediate steps to bring the Governor and his SSA to account and ensure that no politician has to resort to this kind of desperation in a fragile time and against a fragile community ever again in Nigeria. While he may enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution, there is a duty of care to investigate and document such criminal mis-conduct promptly.
“To be clear, any claim that one Nigerian has been killed is serious. An allegation of the killing of 66 Nigerians in one place on one occasion should not and cannot be lightly made not lightly treated. Should the Governor insist on his claims as founded, therefore, we will insist presently on a joint international investigation into this claim, with the presence of independent, forensic observers,” it added.
They reminded all Nigerians, especially politicians, that they owe a duty of care to ‘defend Nigeria’s unity and uphold her honour and glory’.
“Everyone must therefore take absolute responsibility for their speech and action, or pay heavily for them. The era of impunity is over.
“Meanwhile, our incident reporting hotlines which are manned on an uninterrupted basis remain open and we call on citizens and observers everywhere to report incidents of violence and their instigators. The duty of a violence-free election is a shared responsibility,” it added.