At least two people were killed and around 20 were abducted during armed attacks on Ungwan Bulus in the Sabon Tasha area of Chikun Local Government Area (LGA) in Kaduna State, Nigeria on the evening of 31 March. The attacks are the latest development in an ongoing campaign of violence by armed non-state actors which has recently seen a significant surge.
In a particularly alarming development, on 28 March at least eight people were killed and an unknown number were abducted when armed assailants stopped a Kaduna-bound train on the outskirts of the state capital by detonating explosives on the tracks. The attackers reportedly fired indiscriminately, and 25 passengers are receiving treatment in various hospitals. Survivors state their assailants focused on abducting passengers in first and business class, killing any who resisted and carrying the others away in vehicles. Some of the families of abductees are now reportedly receiving calls for ransom payments.
News of the train attack came as local airlines consider suspending services to Kaduna International Airport following an attack on 26 March by militia men on dozens of motorcycles in which a Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) worker was killed and flights were disrupted. Those needing to travel to the capital, Abuja, are now obliged risk the Abuja-Kaduna highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the country where kidnappers ambush vehicles regularly. An attack on commuters occurred within hours of the assault on the train, and on 31 March travellers were reportedly obliged to flee once again from armed assailants who had blocked the highway in search of victims.
On 30 March a customs officer and his son were among several people abducted during an attack on the Kofar Gayan low-cost area of Zaria city. That same evening in Kachia LGA in southern Kaduna five people were killed in Aburon, two in Kabode and four in Ankwa, while an unknown number were abducted from their homes by many assailants who moved from house to house as the military reportedly failed to respond. Around 69 people were abducted from their homes in Kasuwan Magani town in Kajuru LGA during the early hours of 23 March in a similar manner, including a woman and her two-month-old baby.
On 27 March Rev Yohanna Musa, a retired Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) pastor, and two ECWA members were killed during an attack on Tsaunin Mayau in Giwa LGA in which homes, cars and grain storages were burnt.
On 24 March the Rev Fr Felix Zakari Fidson of the Catholic Diocese of Zaria was abducted as he travelled from his house to the diocesan headquarters. His kidnappers have reportedly contacted his family to discuss a ransom payment.
On 23 March a man identified as David Diem Tanko was beaten to death outside the palace of the Emir of Jema’a in Kafanchan as he was on his way to collect his brother from school.
Also on 23 March over 100 people were killed, homes were burnt, food stores were looted and hundreds were displaced during attacks on several communities in Giwa LGA that began in the evening and lasted for almost eight hours. Around half of the victims were women and children. Affected communities include the Kaya community, Mai Kyauro and Fatika, and Angwan Sarki Yahya, Tasjhar Shari, Bare-Bari, Tsaunin Natal, Dillalai, Durumi and Jatin Kanwa in the Yakawada Ward.
At least 34 people are confirmed to have died, seven were injured, one is missing, and hundreds were displaced after hundreds of armed assailants sporting bandoliers attacked the Tsonje, Agban, Katanga and Kadarko communities in Kagoro the Chiefdom of Kaura LGA in southern Kaduna on 20 and 21 March. Several victims were burned to death and at least 200 houses, 34 shops, three cars and 17 motorcycles were destroyed by fire. According to CSW’s sources the assailants had initially attempted an attack on 17 March but had been repelled by members of the local communities.
On 21 March the Kaduna state governor declared a 24-hour curfew in Kaura LGA and Jema’a LGA, where most of the displaced people had fled. However, the state’s Commissioner of Security was later obliged to correct a potentially inflammatory statement issued on 24 March, which claimed erroneously that the Kudan community in Zagon Kataf LGA had burnt down a Fulani settlement.
This marked surge in violence that was already significant further highlights the critical levels of insecurity prevailing in Kaduna state, which consistently ranks amongst the three most insecure states in Nigeria, despite being home to some 12 military installations.
A government gazette published in January 2022 designated non-state actors operating in northwest Nigeria who were previously described as “armed bandits”, as terrorists, and extended this designation to “other similar groups” operating “in any part of Nigeria, especially in the North-West and North-Central Regions.” There is now evidence of links between terrorist factions and the diverse militia operating in these areas, with reports in 2021 of Boko Haram fighters and their bomb makers having relocated to forests in southern Kaduna.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “To all intents and purposes Kaduna state is under a comprehensive siege by a significant number of armed non-state actors who appear to be coordinating their activities, heightening the vulnerability of civilians. Residents cannot travel safely by road, air or train, and are not even safe in their own homes. The significant rise in abductions for ransom are particularly worrying, as they indicate an effort to raise funds illicitly for unknown malign purposes. The situation in Kaduna warrants a state of emergency. We therefore call, as we have many times before, on both the state and federal authorities to do far more to counter the alarming surge in violence, and to prioritise the protection of vulnerable communities. This inaction cannot continue, and the international community in particular must increase efforts to hold the Nigerian government to account for its failure to protect citizens, as well offering Nigeria every possible assistance to combat the terrorist threats.”