Chidi Odinkalu, human rights lawyer, has described as false, the statement from the Kaduna state government that 66 people were killed in attacks on 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 on the eve of the postponed election.
El-Rufai also confirmed the incident, saying “Report of the killing of about 66 Fulanis in Maro, Kajuru local government, which 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.”
But in an appearance on a programme on ChannelsTV, 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,” Odinkalu said.
“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.”
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.”
Nigerians on social media have been reacting to the explosive claim by the governor…
Nothing happened in kajuru yesterday sir!!!! Iri is a different place entirely sir…. The supposed fight that was captured was in Maro.. and even before now there has been unrest at kajuru …but the only attack there this week was on Monday
— Im_incredibly_awesome (@stephenaaay) February 16, 2019
Please in the midst of all this, we are looking for Nasir Elrufai to provide the 66 corpses of people who he told media, were killed in a massacre in Kajuru.
The people of Kajuru have no knowledge of this killing.
No bodies, nothing except him announcing it.
— Deji Adeyanju (Ndi Kato) (@YarKafanchan) February 16, 2019
Why did El Rufai announce the killing of 66 people in Kajuru on the eve of an election?
NOTE: Nobody has been able to confirm these deaths, including people from Kajuru. What was his motive? #NigeriaDecides2019
— Omawumi O (@ormainy) February 16, 2019
The governor of Kaduna misrepresented the facts in the recent crisis that claimed some lives in certain communities in Kajuru. Clearly, the narrative is flawed. It was wrong for the governor to have alluded to one ethnic group as being victims of attack. #Kajuru66 #ElRufailied
— Williams Kaura Abba (@Billabba) February 16, 2019
Prof. Odinkalu: People across all political divides must call out the Kaduna State governor for making an incendiary statement (that 66 "Fulani" people had been murdered) on the eve of a very important election. Let's all go to Kajuru and verify. @ChidiOdinkalu @elrufai
— Remi Sonaiya (@oluremisonaiya) February 16, 2019
The state government has yet to respond to the counter-claim.