Chidi Odinkalu, the human rights lawyer, has described as false, the statement from the Kaduna state government that 66 people were killed in attacks on the Kajuru local government area of the state.
Samuel Aruawan, spokesman of Nasir el-Rufai, had said the killings reportedly took place in eight settlements across the local government area. El-Rufai also confirmed the incident saying, “report of the killing of about 66 Fulanis in Maro, Kajuru local government, is quite tragic. These deliberate killings are designed to attract reprisals and destabilise that local government during the election. But the security agencies are containing the situation and I’ll be also visiting to also calm down afraid nerves and some arrests have been made already.”
The Governor’s comment, made on the eve of the rescheduled elections, was received with criticism, with many describing it as inciting.
Speaking during a program on Channels Television, Odinkalu accused el-Rufai of lying about the number of casualties and the timing of the attacks. According to him, while killings were recorded in the Kajuru last week, the casualties were not more than 11. He said he contacted many sources in the state, including residents, traditional and religious rulers and nobody confirmed the incident resulting in 66 deaths.
“That story, if you noticed, that story was broken by the Kaduna state governor with his publicist, Muyiwa Adekeye standing by his shoulder. No police officer, no SSS officer, no security person in the vicinity and he was throwing out words that were calculated to be very incendiary on the eve of very difficult elections about a location that is very difficult and has had historical problems of violence across communities.
And he was dropping this bromide like he was on some substance, with all due respect. I spent all of last night from all the sources in Kajuru and nobody can verify or substantiate that there has been a killing of 66 people in Kajuru over the past few days” Odinkalu said.
The lawyer asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to pay close attention to the comments of politicians in the election period. “And INEC has got to deal with this kind of reality. It is not just logistics. It is politicians with all manners of design and I think it is important as we deal with the story of this question of postponement, to begin to call out politicians to order,” he said.
“You cannot on the eve of a very difficult election, stand by yourself with your publicist, and be talking about the killing of 66 people of one ethnic group and be talking about it with a celebratory air, that is beyond irresponsible.
“And I think people across all political divide must call out the Kaduna state governor and any other governor in this country who tries this kind of thing, on the eve of this type of event in our country, must be called out.
“I am saying this with a resent of responsibility, all I spent my life doing in this election is dealing with violence and atrocities. And when I heard this story yesterday, as I said, I spend the entire night calling all the sources I know in Kajuru. I spent a lot of time working on southern Kaduna.
“There were some killings in Kajuru last week up until Saturday or Sunday. And the best numbers we can get, every life matters so I am not saying this carelessly, about 10, 11 people were reportedly killed in Kajuru. As a matter of fact, there are still victims from that killing at St Jerat Hospital. The governor indeed was at St Jerat hospital on Tuesday. When did this killings that he talked about happen?
“No bodies, no police officer, no cameras. Let him tell us where he got these bodies from because this is too serious for any governor to say and get away with at this election. We must never allow that story to get away. 66 Nigerians killed, that is 66 too many. If any Nigerian claims that 66 people were killed in Kajuru this week, including the governor of Kaduna, let us all go and verify. It is not true.”