The presence of armed soldiers manning two strategic points in Gidan Waya, a small town under a hill, about 18km south of Kafanchan, the bubbling hub of Southern Kaduna, in Jema’a Local Government Area, LGA, of Kaduna State, is the most impressionable aspect of the town to visitors. There, as residents would say, soldiers play the roles of policemen and local bullies.
￼But, last Sunday, the two check points on the Abuja-Jos and Gidan Waya-Kafanchan roads were empty.
The community had literally sacked them, with bare hands and moral power.
It all began from a minor argument, but, fanned by ego, it blew into a full scale skirmish, during which a lieutenant in the army and three others were allegedly shot dead, though the Nigerian Army was yet to confirm it lost an officer.
Chief Danjuma La’ah (Shetiman Kagoro), who had spent a fortune peaking over N100 million, catering for the welfare of soldiers stationed in Southern Kaduna since the April 2011 crisis, visited the homes of two of the killed persons in Gidan Waya and in Kagoro after their burial last Thursday, and lamented that a misunderstanding between soldiers and residents could reach such a tragedy, and called for calm.
Mr Shetima, senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for Southern Kaduna also paid a condolence visit to the Chief of Godogodo, Chief Ajiya Atang, and asked for a smooth, close collaboration between military and security outfits and residents in the area.
Those allegedly killed were identified as Zakaria Yaki (48), a worker with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, at Gidan Waya; David Jester (24), a part two student with Kaduna State College of Education, Gidan Waya and a man yet to be identified. The unidentified man’s body was deposited at the Kafanchan General Hospital. The army lieutenant, whose identity was not confirmed at the time of writing this report, was said to have died from the injuries he sustained, but other sources said that the army came and took him to an unknown place from the Kafanchan General Hospital, where he was taken after being rescued.
What looked like an narration of the tragedy came from the Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan Archdiocese, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri. He gave a vivid account of the alleged murder of the three men, ostensibly Catholics, by soldiers and the retaliatory mob action on the soldiers that left one of the soldiers lynched and some rifles carted away.
The incident, according to the bishop, took place at Gidan Waya, during the Sunday Mass Service.
In a press statement in Kaduna, Bagobiri said: “The peaceful atmosphere that usually characterize Sunday worship in St. Peter’s Catholic Church Gidan Waya in Jama’a LGA of Kaduna State was the 8th of March, 2015 between the hours of 9am and 10am disrupted as a result of a clash between the army and our Catholic Cadets.
“The incidence happened when one of the army officers was going to Church and met the entrance to the Catholic Church premises from the main road blocked as our usual security measure. This road block was being manned by the Catholic Cadets. The said officer was allowed to pass. But later came back to question the authority behind the road-block. This brought about a serious argument that led to the exchange of words which eventually led to physical combat.
“The army officer then called on his men who on arrival simply opened fire on the boys, killing one of them instantly. This was followed by a sporadic gun shots which attracted the attention of other members in the Church.
“About this time, the priest in charge of the parish quickly called the bishop at about 11amto inform him about the happenings. The bishop immediately alerted the Police Division in Kafanchan and, within a short time, they were there to calm the situation.
“Three people have been confirmed dead while two others who sustained various degree of injuries are in the General Hospital in Kafanchan receiving treatment.
“Furious with the indiscriminate shooting that eventually led to these deaths and injuries, the enraged youth pounced on the military officer who was eventually rescued and taken to hospital and is now feared dead.
“The enraged youth did not stop at that. It is said that some of them went to the officer’s apartment and made away with two guns.
“But one has been so far recovered. The other one is yet to be recovered though the community leaders are working towards recovering it.”
The bishop went on: “The situation is now calm and normal life has resumed as people are seen going about their normal businesses.
“We do not pray for a repeat of this ugly situation again.
“The army and the local people should learn to work together to create a safe environment for citizens.
“We deeply regret this avoidable and very unfortunate incident that led to the death of four lives including that of the military officer, and leaving scores of others under hospitilization and in critical conditions now.
“The altercations between the youths and the officer would not have occurred and with such disastrous consequences had the officer respected the right of the youths to keep vigil over the rest of their members who were worshipping, which is a common practice everywhere in Nigeria today because of the scourge of insecurity brought about by the Boko Haram menace.
“The indiscriminate shooting by the military on the slightest act of provocation, which resulted to these deaths reveals the unpreparedness and poor preparation of our soldiers to handle civil cases.
“We therefore condemn in very strong terms such extra judicial killings and ask Government to step in and provide a solution to these kind of reckless behavior of our security forces who can pull a trigger and waste lives at the slightest act of provocation.
“This unfortunate incident has brought to the surface again, the precarious situation of the helpless and vulnerable people of southern Kaduna, who are always under attack from the Fulani herdsmen, and when they look up to the military for protection, they are being killed, there by adding salt to injury”.
According to Sunday reports, however, learnt from the Chief of Godogodo that the two guns had been recovered but the magazines were still missing.
“I am convening a security meeting this Monday, (tomorrow) after I had directed that everything be done to recover the magazines”, he said.