The hope of up to 90 million northern Nigerians that their economy will be better with the development of the country’s railway system may be crushed by the ongoing crisis in Southern Kaduna, Nigeria’s third most populated state.
The government of Africa’s biggest economy had budgeted up to N218 billion for the development of the country’s railway system, lending hope that economic linkages will be created to boost living conditions in the impoverished parts of the North through improved access to market by the farmers and enhanced trading relationships among inland and city dwellers in the region.
Kaduna State is currently enmeshed in a humanitarian crisis as the southern part of the state has hosted series of deadly violence, mostly inflicted by herdsmen on farming communities with subsequent reprisals. The country’s 2006 census says Kaduna State’s population is 6.1 million, making it the third largest state after Lagos and Kano.
Analysts say the crisis may be a clog in government’s efforts to lure private capital to the railway sector that is seen as a key aspect of the development of the country’s transport infrastructure.
They describe Kaduna as a centre and good evacuation point for farm produce, as it is the only town that has a direct link to both the eastern and western railway lines in Nigeria. They say restoring peace and stability to Kaduna South will be useful in addressing the low economic and human development indices in the north. People will be able to evacuate their farm produce, earn money, and live better quality life.
Data obtained from SBM Intel, an Africa-focused market intelligence and communications consulting firm, shows that the crises in the state date back to 1981 when over 100 homes were destroyed in clashes in Adara town. Five other deadly Clashes have occurred in various parts of the state since then leaving thousands of people dead and several homes destroyed.
The SBM Intel report said that as the government attempts to resuscitate the Nigerian rail service, it is important to note that both of the major rail lines, the Western Line linking Nguru (Yobe) to Lagos, and the Eastern Line linking Maiduguri to Port Harcourt, intersect via a link line from Jos, in Plateau state, to Kaduna. This link line passes through Kafanchan.
The report said, “When viewing the current Southern Kaduna crisis, it is important to differentiate between the current violence and the previous historical incidents. The first critical difference is in the duration of the incidents. Most of the violent incidents prior to 2016 were either single incidents or closely related incidents, occurring within a short space of time. This is not so with the ongoing violence. The violence has occurred in several separate incidents over a period of time much longer than any other in the history of Southern Kaduna.
“The second difference appears to be in the motivation. Prior to 2016, specific incidents, most of them localised or religious, were the motivating factors for the violence. Many of those involved in the violence were locals and could trace their grievances to those specific issues.
“The current violence however, is clearly retribution over lost cattle and for grazing land by the Fulani. The Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, has also said that many of the perpetrators are not locals but Fulani herdsmen that had to be tracked down to other West African countries. The Northern Governors Forum also repeated this claim in January 2017. Clearly, this is different from the previous incidents.
“The third difference is the wider context of attacks by Fulani herdsmen following similar patterns in Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states. In all these locations, while there were historical local tensions amongst the ethnicities living in those locations (as with Eggon against Alago in Nasarawa, or Tiv against Idoma in Benue), the herdsmen related violence in these areas was clearly delineated from those historical conflicts, and decimated the populations in these areas.
“The historical conflicts introduced complexities to the situation but they were different. Hence, it is important for observers and policy makers delineate the ongoing killings in Southern Kaduna from the historical violence in planning aid to the victims, response to the violence, and the dispensation of justice.
“It is vital to the economic interests of Northern Nigeria,that an acceptable solution is found to the Southern Kaduna crisis, before other people, go the way of the Tarok and Junkun.” the report said.
Economy watchers said that it is vital to get a handle on the security situation in Southern Kaduna because of reasons of geography, economics and demography.