International Reserach Group for Transregional & Emerging Area Studies
The International Reserach Group for Transregional & Emerging Area Studies is a non-partisan and multidisciplinary Think-Tank Organization.
10:47 - 23 March 2000

Domestic Aliens: The Zangon Kataf Crisis and the African Concept of “Stranger”


By John Edward  Philips[i] * ⅰ

(preliminary paper, not for quotation, citation or other reproduction except for presentation at conferences)

1.             The problem

In mid-May, 1992, rioting broke out in the small town of Zangon Kataf, ‘a nondescript community that most Nigerians had not heard of before,’[ii] in the southern part of Kaduna State, Nigeria.  It quickly spread to the state capital, Kaduna, where up to a hundred people lost their lives. From London, the magazine West Africa reported that


“A dusk‑to‑dawn curfew was imposed on Kaduna State on May 19, following two days of what reports described as religious clashes which claimed as many as 100 lives. . . .

“As rioters rampaged through the streets, looting and burning at will, the general hospital overflowed with the wounded. An eyewitness was quoted as saying “They had all kinds of injuries: from stones and clubs, machetes and knives, bows and arrows, and poisoned spears.”[iii]


The rioting divided the city along religious lines, as neighborhoods which had been predominantly Christian or Muslim became exclusively one or the other.  As the rioting subsided, a new residential pattern emerged in which there were no longer mixed neighborhoods but only Christian or Muslim neighborhoods.  Friends from different religions might visit each others houses, but no one spends the night in a neighborhood of a different religion.

The effects of the riots were felt not only in the city of Kaduna, but in the rest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well.  On May 25 President Babangida addressed the nation in the aftermath of the Kaduna riot.  He said that all further incidents of violence would be met with emergency powers last used during the Civil War, announced that some tribal unions had been banned, and suggested that these acts of violence were intended to derail his transition program to democratic government.  He set up a special tribunal to try all suspects arrested in connection with the disturbances.[iv]    This special tribunal was itself very controversial and has divided Nigerian opinion to this day, especially in its findings that a conspiracy involving prominent Nigerians had been behind the disturbances.

This series of conflicts was typical of many in Nigeria, especially in the Nigerian ‘middle belt,’ the southern fringe of the former Northern Region of Nigeria.  The typical pattern begins with a dispute over land.  It escalates using modern methods of military recruitment and modern military weaponry.  Although it may start as a local dispute between only two small ethnic groups, it quickly escalates to include other neighboring groups.  Finally, it acquires the character of a religious war, especially where, as in so much of the Nigerian middle belt, religion and ethnicity largely coincide.  A manipulative role played by the political classes, economic inequality, or at least differentiation, between the ethnic groups and the perceived ‘warrior’ traditions of certain groups also often come into play, as at least some of them did in this particular instance.[v]

This paper will examine the background causes of the riots in an attempt to explain how the small beginning of conflict in Zangon Katab town exploded into a massive social dislocation, creating effects which will divide northern Nigerians, especially in Kaduna, for years, perhaps generations.  This paper will argue that ethnicity, or even religion, in themselves were not the causes of the conflict, but instead that politically and economically motivated disturbances were exacerbated by the fact that several different kinds of social divisions (religion, ethnicity, economic, social and political traditions, language, dress, etc.) coincided and became mutually reinforcing.  The divisions in the society could not be bridged, as individuals on one side of the social divide felt they had little in common with those on the other side, and each side felt that the state was dominated by those sympathetic to the other side.  This division of society manifested itself to those involved as religion rather than ethnicity, also suggesting that Samuel Huntingtons thesis about the conflict of civilizations may be relevant to the study of conflict in contemporary Nigeria.

This study will also argue that although the mere existence of different ethnic and religious groups in the same environment does not necessarily lead to conflict, incompatible social and political values and traditions make it difficult for those groups to arrive at mutually acceptable mechanisms for resolving disagreements.  This is especially the case when the state institutions of the society have little legitimacy, and when their nature itself can be in question, as in the middle of a transition from one system of government to another.

Of course the understanding of African concepts, how Africans conceive their own human and social environment, is indispensable for understanding Africa.  The relative rights of different groups in the population are affected by this perception, since the question of which group was the indigenous group and which was the ‘stranger’ group was in controversy, as were the rights of minorities and the rights of residence in ‘alien’ parts of the Nigerian federation.  The African concept of ‘stranger’ or ‘guest’ and the related concepts of hospitality imply certain relations between groups, their respective rights and responsibilities toward each other, and mutual expectations of behavior between them. The process of state-creation in Nigeria, by which the units of the federation become progressively smaller and smaller, as well as the legal and social tendency towards less permeable ethnic boundaries, have exacerbated ethnic conflict by making it more and more difficult for individuals and groups to cross ethnic or other social boundaries and indigenize in an area.[vi]  The ‘grandfather clause’ in the state citizenship section of the 1979 Nigerian Constitution, which made anyone with a grandparent who ‘was a member of a community indigenous to that state’ a citizen of that state, while excluding excluding recent immigrants from other communities, thus prevented the traditional assimilation which was characteristic of most precolonial African societies, especially such rapidly expanding and multi-ethnic ones as the Hausa.

Finally, this paper argues for the importance of history and contingency in understanding social processes in the real world.  These processes and events are not simply the result of inexorable and impersonal social forces acting themselves out in some social science model, they are the sum total of many decisions made by many different individuals with varying degrees of power.   In this instance the actions of various individuals, whether famous and powerful or anonymous and seemingly insignificant, impacted the process of social change and sent history cascading down the path it actually took rather than down another, less violent and divisive path.


2.             Historical background to the riots[vii]

Zangon Kataf, or Katab,[viii] is a town in the Zangon Katab District of southern Kaduna State, northern Nigeria, in which the Tyap, or Katab, people are the numerically dominant ethnic group. The Tyap were described in colonial ethnographic literature as primarily agricultural, practicing shifting cultivation.   As defined by colonial anthropology, the District was


“in the south‑easternmost District of Zaria Emirate. . . .  The Katab proper share the District primarily with the Ikulu, Kaje and Kamantan, tribes of the Katab Group, north and west of the Katab, and the Kachichere, south‑east; and also with the Atsam (Chawai), “Ribawa” (the people of Riban village), both affiliated with the peoples of the High Plateau, and a minor salient of Kurama, in the Chawai tribal area to the east. Zangon Katab town, seat of the District head (an official of the Emirate entitled Katuka) is primarily Hausa, an island in the heart of the Katab tribal area. Throughout the District there are small enclaves of Hausa craftsmen, particularly smiths, which probably antedate the Fulani conquest [of the early nineteenth century], and scattered bands of semi‑nomadic Fulani, who appear to have made the District their headquarters for so long that they have adopted the name Kachichere, after their centre, the “Kachichere Plateau.””[ix]


The nineteenth century British traveler Richard Lander visited Zangon Kataf on his first journey to Africa after the death of Captain Hugh Clapperton.  Lander described it as an important, centralized kingdom and advocated that Britain open trade relations with it.  In light of his failure to return there this is likely an exaggeration.  Lander seems to have been anxious to return to Africa leading his own expedition (he had been a personal servant on Clappertons expedition) and Zangon Kataf was the largest and most important town he had visited on his own after Clappertons death.  He therefore probably wished to make it appear as if he had visited an important kingdom previously unknown to European geographers.  That he overestimated the centralization of Tyap society and its sovereignty is also suggested by the fact that representatives of the emir of Zaria, sent to arrest Lander, had no trouble passing through the town either on their way to arrest him or with him in their custody afterwards.[x]  Lander also failed to return to Zangon Kataf on later expeditions.

The relations between the Tyap and the Hausa, and their history together, is a matter for much controversy today.  Even the late colonial, standard Ethnographic Survey of Africa had difficulty ascertaining the nature of pre-colonial, and especially pre-jihad, social relations between them.[xi]   What is certain is that their history is marked by a great deal of both conflict and cooperation.

Early colonial anthropology described the Tyap as situated ‘in the Kauru District in the southwest of Zaria Emirate, . . . they have also one township over the border in Nassarawa Province.’  The total area they occupied was approximately 200 square miles and their population approximately 5,000.  There was no question that they were indigenous to the area. They also seemed to be related to the Kagoro and other local groups, who had in fact adopted their facial scarifications.  Of recent invention, these scarifications ‘consist of numerous short perpendicular cuts along the forehead from ear to ear and thirteen or more long slanting lines on each cheek from ear to chin.’  The incisions were painted with soot.  The languages of all of these groups were also closely related and their other customs were similar.

The Tyap’s exact origins are a matter of much speculation, although they are almost certainly of such longstanding residence in the area that they can unquestionably lay claim to indigenous origin.  By the end of the colonial period anthropologists confidently assumed that while the previous investigator Tremearne had reported that “the Katab tribe” originated from the region of Karigi the reality was a bit more complicated.  The Shokwa were aboriginal, having allegedly emerged from out of the Kaduna river, and were considered rainmakers. The Aku were also aboriginal, having been associated with the Shokwa but emerging later.  The others were strangers adopted into the society, forming subclans. This process of adoption “aims towards an eventual amalgamation of Ikulu, Kachichere and Kamantan tribes with the Katab; and perhaps ultimately the Kaje, if not of the more closely related tribes of neighboring Districts.”[xii]  Thus Tyap society was absorbing strangers, or guests, just as the Hausa were, although on a smaller scale.  It is also likely that many immigrants of closely related peoples were absorbed from the north as they fled slave raiders from Zaria.[xiii]

The origins of the Hausa settlement are also obscure and controversial.  Certainly the town existed before the nineteenth century, and may have had administrative functions in the area.  According to an early colonial anthropologist, the Galadiman Makama of Zaria used to accompany the chief of Kauru on annual expeditions to Zangon Kataf to collect tribute in the form of slaves from each village.  Headmen of subclans were required at their installation to swear fealty to Zaria on a ‘sacred sword’ brought from Zaria for this purpose.[xiv]

According to Gunn, during the nineteenth century

and earlier the village hamlet was apparently  the basic unit of administration. To all appearances, in pre‑Fulani times [i.e. before the Sokoto Caliphate] the chiefs of Kajuru, Kauru and Zaria were rivals in the territory occupied by members of the Katab Group. After the Fulani conquest, the situation remained complex owing to the rise of a Fulani Emirate at Jema’a Daroro, but Kajuru was eliminated from the lists, and Kauru was firmly affixed to Zaria Emirate,’ with the Katab tribal area “as an appendage.” The Makama of Zaria became the chief of Kauru’s “patron” at the court of the Emir, and the Galadiman Makama is said to have accompanied the chief of Kauru annually to Zangon Katab, “when tribute, in the form of slaves, was collected town by town.” Meek adds that in matters of tribute the Kauru chiefs apparently dealt direct with each village, ignoring the clan organization, “but for purposes of such general administration as existed, a headman was appointed for each sub‑clan, and his fealty sworn on the sacred sword [of the chief of Kauru].” The sub‑clan head had little authority and nothing to do with the assignment or collection of taxes, but he was “the mouthpiece of the Kauru rulers,” and could summon village and sub‑clan heads to discuss matters of administration. He could deal with minor offences, but all important matters were referred to Kauru.”


Village chiefs also apportioned taxes and arrested criminals.[xv]

Although they were good farmers who raised much livestock, the Tyap were also famous as highway robbers.  It was even claimed that the first drop of water a Tyap baby was given to drink was stolen, so that the child would be initiated into thievery from the first.  Their religion was non-Islamic and a belief in sorcery was part of it.  Among their other beliefs were that the rock called Dutsin Kerrima in Nassarawa ‘becomes luminous every Sunday and Friday night, when white cattle are seen on the summit, herded by a white Filane girl.’ Head hunting was allegedly another of their practices, as was consumption of great quantities of beer.[xvi]   Milk was scarce in the area, so beer was an important part of the diet.[xvii]

As far as the political structure of the Tyap goes, the Ethnographic Survey noted simply that “The information available is somewhat confused.” At the bottom the household or compound cluster had much authority, but the lineage and a social and religious chief (elenowum) also had much power.  This elenowum was the chief priest and custodian of skulls taken in war.  He was “appealed to on all matters of custom, rank and seniority, but has no authority in political matters as the political chiefship always runs in another branch.” However, this “civil chief” consulted him in carrying out his duties. The Survey also noted that “Some original connection between the ancestor and head‑hunting cults is suggested by the fact that the elenowum was the custodian of skull trophies.”[xviii]  There were also various other offices such as those in charge of the “obwai”cult, the rain cult, poison arrows and hunting, and organizing young men for collective work.  Clearly this was a stateless society with diffuse centers of decision making and without centralized, coercive authorities over all others.

The Tyap were composed of 4 clans, various subclans of diverse origins (indigenous and exogenous).  Their social structure was marked by the adoption of various groups which pointed to possible future “amalgamation of Ikulu, Kachichere, and Kamantan tribes with the Katab; and perhaps ultimately of the Kaje, if not of the more closely related tribes of the neighboring Districts.”[xix] The Tyap are also part of a larger “Katab Culture‑complex” or (to use Colonial Anthropological officer Meek’s term) the “Katab Group” which includes the Ataka, Ikulu, Jaba (Ham), Kachichere, Kagoma, Kagoro, Daroro, and the Kaninkon, all speaking closely related languages, which are possibly dialects of the same language.  Gunn also claimed that


Head‑hunting was widely practiced among the Katab peoples, as among many of their neighbors, Aten, Irigwe, Chawai and others. The taking of a head apparently gave a man the status of an elder and was always the occasion of ritual.   Captured skulls were preserved. It seems that wars were not infrequent between and among members of the Group, but within the Group each member apparently respected the dead of certain other members (the Kagoro, for example, took Ataka and Kaje heads, but never Moroa or Katab proper), and there is every indication that the favoured game of all members was Fulani and Hausa.[xx]


This pattern of tribal warfare was typical of the Nigerian ‘middle belt’ in pre-colonial times, and was one reason that Brigadier Lugard chose to recruit so much of the West African Frontier Force, the future Nigerian army, from this area.[xxi]   It is also highly characteristic of stateless societies under pressure from larger, more powerful, expanding states.[xxii]  This was certainly the situation of the Tyap and their neighbors in relation to the expanding Hausa society and especially the Sokoto Caliphate of the nineteenth century.

Despite this evidence of perennial conflict there is also evidence that there was regular symbiosis between Tyap and Hausa, a less spectacular but probably more important part of their relationship.  There was an occupational distinction between them, the Tyap being mostly farmers.  Farming was done mostly by Tyap men with help from the women.  Women had their own small garden plots and raised such livestock as goats, fowl and sheep.  There were few Tyap craft specialists or merchants.  The wide range of crops, firewood, honey etc. grown and gathered for sale by Tyap were marketed by Hausa traders who also sold weapons, tools and cloth to the Tyap.  Even pottery was largely imported from Ataka.  Little big game was found in the area, so hunting was more of a ritualized recreation (or perhaps practice for warfare) than an economic activity.[xxiii]

The slave trade in the Tyap area was one of the most important economic relations they had with the outside world.  “Zangon Katab was the site of an important slave‑market: it is recorded that the Birom of the High Plateau disposed of certain categories of criminals through sale to Irigwe middle‑men, who in turn sold them in Zango.”[xxiv]  It is probable that this trade, like most other commerce in the area, was organized by Hausa traders.  However, the relationship of the Tyap to the slave trade was not entirely disadvantageous for them, in fact it has been argued that “their relationship with Kauru may well have been to some extent voluntary, as it enabled them to dispose of murderers, thieves, and possibly certain other types of criminals also. Whether these criminals were in effect deducted from their annual dues is not clear, but it seems unlikely.”[xxv]  It is also likely that much Tyap warfare was organized in order to obtain captives for sale in the Zango, rather than in order to resist Hausa economic expansion, especially considering the important role that Hausa traders filled in their economy.

Unfortunately, little attention was paid in the colonial ethnographic literature to ethnic change.  This is particularly important in considering the Hausa, who have never been a static ethnic group, but who have expanded largely by absorbing persons from other ethnic groups.  The Tyap have been on the edge of Hausa territory for centuries and have surely contributed persons to the Hausa ‘melting pot’ but they have just as surely resisted total absorption and assimilation.  They have maintained their own identity to this day.

As the aboriginal inhabitants of the area, the Tyap considered themselves to be the ‘sons of the soil’ (Hausa &yan ûasa) and the Hausa to be guests or strangers.  It is important to remember that in almost all African languages the word for ‘stranger’ also means ‘guest.’  Thus the Hausa were considered honored persons to be well treated and made comfortable, but they were necessarily alien until and unless they became fully integrated members of the society.  The Hausa, being an expansive people who were particularly successful at assimilating others into their culture, were also interested in spreading their culture to the Tyap.  They considered the Zango to be Hausa territory on which the Tyap were guests, and were therefore generally respectful of the Tyap, treating them with traditional African hospitality, as the Tyap in turn treated the Hausa.

Despite the usual peaceful, symbiotic relations between Tyap and Hausa traders, conflict occasionally exploded.  For example, “It appears that the Katab occasionally rallied `to drive the chief of Kauru out of Zangon Katab and pillage the Hausa inhabitants'” a curious suggestion that the recent massacres are not without precedent in the history of the area.[xxvi]  It is likely that, in addition to specific causes of each such violent outbreak there may have been an attempt to show in more general terms that the Zango was Tyap territory and the Hausa inhabitants still guests, or strangers, despite their long residence in the area.

During the course of the nineteenth century, the Tyap became more and more involved with Fulani-ruled Zaria, an important emirate in the Sokoto Caliphate, and a major source of slaves for the Caliphate. The Sokoto Caliphate managed to unify most of the Hausa states, together with several neighboring areas.  As the largest state in nineteenth century tropical Africa the Sokoto Caliphate was in a position to put very intense pressures on its neighbors, especially small stateless societies.  As an Islamic state it was not only assimilative, as Hausa society has always been, it was theoretically on a perpetual war footing with neighbors who did not subordinate themselves in an amana agreement and pay jizya, or special tax on protected non-Muslims.  This concept of relations between Muslims and non-Muslims certainly would have caused conflict with a Tyap perception of Hausa from Zaria as strangers or guests in a Zango that was still on Tyap territory.

This contact with, and attempted domination by, the emirate of Zaria became more intense as the nineteenth century wore on.  For example, according to the anthropologist M.G. Smith, during the first reign of Abdullahi (1863‑73) the Zaria state


sought to strengthen the eastern vassal state of Lere and restore order in the southern territories. Taxation within Zaria was increased, and tribute was demanded from Keffi, which had fallen behind in its payments. The Kaje, Chawai, Katab, and Gwari of southern Zaria were controlled by the appointment of Tatumare, an Ikulu convert to Islam, to the military office of Kuyambana, which commanded the lifidi (heavy‑armed cavalry). Tatumare knew these districts intimately from boyhood, and with the help of Sarkin Kauru and Sarkin Kajuru, whose dominions bordered on the Ikulu and Kamantan, was able to secure more regular payment of tribute from these southern tribes.[xxvii]


Abdullahi also led many military campaigns during his first reign, including an attack on the Tyap at Sabon Kauru near Malagum, but during his second reign (1876‑81) neither he nor his officials led many attacks anywhere.  Relations between Hausa and Tyap during the nineteenth century would thus be difficult to generalize about, as they were always changing and often differed from Tyap group to Tyap group.[xxviii]

By the end of the century all Tyap groups had rebelled, refusing to pay the jizya, which had now risen to a hundred slaves per annum. This was as much a response to changes in Zaria as it was to changing conditions among the Tyap, however.  King Kwassau (1897-1903) maintained high tax rates and an expensive corps of musketeers, even as security was deteriorating.  Armed horsemen from such distant areas as Maradi and Kwantagora raided rural Zaria, taking even many Hausa peasants swiftly into slavery.  These changed conditions also encouraged other vassals to throw off their allegiance.  King Kwassau marched against the Tyap, refusing to take prisoners.  He then marched against other groups in the same area.[xxix]  The revolts against Kwassau were only ended by colonialism.

The British system of Indirect Rule caused problems in the administration of such people as the Tyap.  Their relations with Zaria had been complex and changing throughout the nineteenth century.  The fact that they were in rebellion against Zaria at the time the British conquered both of them presented a problem for indirect rule. Which pattern of relations between them (tribute, independence or revolt) was to be considered the ‘traditional’ relationship between the Tyap and Zaria was something that the British had to decide in placing the Tyap under their system of indirect rule, in which they were supposed to respect the traditional African systems of government.  But the practicality (or perhaps expediency) of their system is perhaps exposed by the example of the Chawai, a non-Muslim group who had adopted much Hausa culture.  Despite being culturally quite distinct from the Tyap, and having had different relations with Zaria during the nineteenth century, they were made a subdistrict of Zangon Katab and placed under the Katuka, who supervised the Tyap for Zaria under the ultimate authority of the British.[xxx]

As colonial anthropologists admitted, “Under British Administration the [political] situation has altered considerably.”  The Katuka (now stationed permanently at Zangon Kataf) was directly responsible to the emir.  The Tyap area was divided on a territorial basis into 7 village‑areas.  The Katuka obtained swords from the Kauru for installing headmen, “here again the available materials are difficult to interpret” but although there was no overall “tribal chief” the Minyam clan had a “prominent position.” Clearly the complex social relations were too difficult for the British to fully understand the nature of conflict and symbiosis between the groups, much less manage it.[xxxi]

British administration of Tyap and other non-Muslim, non-Hausa peoples could not help but have an effect on them.  Being under the control of Zaria emirate, the Tyap were supposed to be outside of the range of missionary activity.  Since missionaries were disapproved of by both the ruling Hausa-Fulani and the colonial authorities, their message was all the more welcome to the Tyap, to whom Christianity was unfettered by association with political structures they considered oppressive.[xxxii]  These middle belt minorities also began to have self-awareness and political consciousness that developed more strongly during the period of nationalist agitation and independence movements following the Second World War.  These changes would eventuate in political movements and demands in the post-independence era.[xxxiii]

Although competition for land would later prove to be a critical factor in precipitating conflict between Tyap and Hausa, during the early colonial era there was little conflict over land.  Even after World War II, although the territory was gradually filling up, there was still much uncultivated and unoccupied potential farmland.  A survey of land tenure in Zaria Province around that time found that although there was no land shortage yet, the loaning of land was increasingly common, and increasingly for limited terms, but that permanent land alienation was still considered impossible.[xxxiv]

Nevertheless, according to this report, the increasing pressure on the land was causing changes in residence patterns.  Over a period of many years Tyap farmers alternated between one farm and another.  The farm of residence was constantly being refertilized with manure, while the other was being depleted by farming.  When the ‘bush farm’ became totally depleted the farmer moved his family’s residence there, turning the still fertile ‘home farm’ into a bush farm and beginning the process over again.[xxxv]  All land within the Tyap area was considered to belong to specific individuals or groups, whether or not it was actually being used. Nevertheless, it was easy to obtain rights to land by means of loans, some of which were so longstanding they had almost been forgotten.[xxxvi]

Land in the Hausa settlement was under Hausa traditional law.  During a meeting held to explain the situation the Shari’a court judge explained that Islamic law took account of local traditions.  Although sale of land was a theoretical possibility, it was never resorted to because land was not in short supply, and it was not a local custom to sell land.  Loans were however common, as they were among the Tyap, with a token payment of one bundle of the harvest taking the place of the traditional Tyap beer in sealing the agreement.[xxxvii]

The possibility of future clashes over land was apparent to the British officer conducting the investigation.  He found that the Hausa claimed to have taken the land around the Zango by right of conquest, and that all such lands were divided by the ‘original conquering families’ and held by their descendants.  On investigating more closely he found that much uncultivated land was not claimed by any Hausa family but had been included in the ‘village unit’ by the British administration and was therefore, according to his Hausa hosts, open for distribution by the Village Head.  In short, while the Hausa admitted under questioning that the Hausa lands did not include the whole of the village territory as defined by the British, ‘let land utilisation increase rapidly and then these specious claims to inheritance qua conquest will very rapidly multiply – and on the most specious and flimsy evidence.’[xxxviii]  In short, the no-man’s land around the village, claimed by no one at the time, was a potential trouble spot if either side decided to press a claim for its land, as both would eventually do.

During the 1950s, little more land seems to have been cultivated than during the previous anthropological survey in the early 1920s.  Although most land was occupied and there was little to spare, there was still no land shortage.  An average of about four to six acres was cultivated by each adult male.  Fallowing and manuring were practiced to maintain the fertility of the land.  Heavy work was done by communal labor (or ‘gayya’ in Hausa).[xxxix]


3.             The First Outbreak of Violence

The first major outbreak of violence during the 1990s arose over a conflict regarding the market in the town.  As noted above, marketing had been an exclusive preserve of the Hausa population of the town.  The elected local government, composed largely of Tyap people, made a decision to move the market.  This was done partly in order to allow for expansion of the market, partly to break the traditional monopoly of trade in the hands of Hausa, and partly for cultural and religious reasons.  “The council said the location of the market in the centre of the Hausa settlement did not allow for expansion resulting in poor revenue yield. According to Yari Babang Ayok, the local government chairman, “the market stalls in the old market were monopolised by Hausa traders.” Goods coming into the market from the neighboring villages were also said to be hoarded by Hausa traders to be resold later. Hausa domination of the market also prevented Kataf people from selling traditional beer (burukutu), pork, and other haram items.[xl]

The councillor representing the Zangon Kataf district in Kachia local government, Mr. Tauna Dabo was asked to consult with the local government council to clear a market site.  This was approved by the council in 1988.  The Kachia Local Government Council chose a location for the proposed market and compensation was paid to the owners.  Five of those landowners, however, refused to collect their compensation, allegedly because pressure was put on them not to accept in order to prevent the building of a new market.  Hausa people in the area were said to have wanted to use the same area for housing, since their settlement in the town was already becoming overcrowded.[xli]  They also objected to relocation since “the new market had no stalls or other facilities that would guarantee the safety of their wares.[xlii] As other local governments in the area prepared to build new markets things began to get difficult in Zangon Kataf.  The file containing the estimate for the construction disappeared, and at least one person involved in the dispute died mysteriously in Kaduna after meeting with some of the people opposing the new market.[xliii]

In the meantime the Zangon Kataf area broke off from Kachia to form its own Local Government Area.  Local Government Areas, or LGAs, are supposed to be an independent, third tier of government in the federal structure of Nigerian administration.  The new local government took over the market project and made it a priority for local government development.[xliv]  A Hausa in the town by the name of Þan Bala A.T.K. took the matter to court and got an injunction to stop the relocation.  The Council either ignored the injunction or did not receive a copy of it in time.  In either case the market opened in defiance of the court.[xlv]   An obvious conflict between democracy and the rule of law was brewing, in which both sides felt that they were legally justified. The council decision reflected the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants of the local area, while the court, which admittedly had not made its final decision, was duty-bound to consider the rights of the minority.  Both sides in the controversy came to believe that they were legally right, the police werent sure what to do, and there was no mutually acceptable body which could mediate the dispute in time to satisfy all.

A site was cleared for the new market.  When hotheads attacked the construction, the Magajin Gari (Mayor) of Zangon Kataf, Abubakar Nagida, accompanied the workers, and, through their wardheads, warned those who objected to the market not to use violence.  February 6 was declared opening day and a monitoring team was set up to supervise attendance at the market and to project its revenue generating capacity.  Also on the same day, policemen were detailed to mount guard at strategic points to direct in‑coming traders who, through ignorance or disregard of the councils decision, might be heading for the old site.  According to the eyewitness report of a former local government councillor, Mr. Tauna Dabo, two persons named Alhaji Dan Bala and Alhaji Nalado walked into the market after midday with a policeman who proceeded to speak to the other police on duty.  The police then walked away from the market, at which point the two men and others announced that the market was closed and began to use violence on those who resisted or were not quick enough about leaving.[xlvi]

According to other reports, one of the Hausas in the town mobilized a band of youths in the community and set them against the police and those who heeded the traffic signals of the police and went to the new site. Market women who disobeyed his orders were reportedly beaten up. It was at this point that one Shan Anwai, a Tyap man, was said to have met his death in the hands of angry Hausa youths.[xlvii]

Rumors spread in the surrounding towns that the Hausa community had declared war on the Tyap people.  Responding to these rumors, many Tyap villagers, armed with bows and arrows, traditional ‘dane’ guns, clubs and cutlasses came out in large numbers and attacked Zangon Katab town for eight hours. The armed villagers burned houses and motor vehicles owned by Hausas. Many Hausas in turn burned down houses belonging to Tyap who lived in Zango town. At a petrol station ten motor vehicles were reported to have been set ablaze.

Many innocent people were caught up in the fighting that day.  Since it was a  market day, Tanko Maireke (a Hausa sugar farmer) was cutting up cane for market, when a mob of villagers armed with “clubs, cutlasses, dane guns and spears” appeared singing war songs. Three of his four sons died on the spot, while Maireke escaped with an arrow in his stomach.  His fourth son died in hospital two weeks later.  “Daniel Shofo, a Kataf man” ran to Zango to check on “the safety of his daughter, a prison warder in Zango.”  His mutilated body was later found under a pile of leaves. During the conflict, a Tyap woman who had come to Zangon Katab in search of fodder for her pigs was shot in the head. Two Hausa brothers were also reported killed while tending their cassava farm a few kilometres from Zango. By the time the violence abated, at least 40 persons had been killed, and many houses, automobiles, gasoline stations and property worth millions of Naira had been destroyed.   Total property losses were finally estimated at over 2 million Naira. [xlviii]  It was even claimed that Hausa attackers had used machine guns during the fighting, although even eyewitnesses could not point to any particular individual as having used or owned such weapons.[xlix]  In the aftermath of the violence, all hunting was forbidden in Zangon Kataf and neighboring local government areas until further notice, a severe hardship to many farmers during the dry season, however necessary it may have been to prevent further violence.[l]

The dispute over the market of course included the question of which group had the right to regulate the market.  In African terms this largely involved the question of which group was aboriginal (literally ‘sons of the soil’ or in Hausa yan ûasa) and had priority rights to the land, and which group was composed of ‘strangers’ or ‘guests’ (Hausa baûo).  As reported in the press at the time of the violence:


The Kataf claimed the land on which the Hausas live was theirs; and that the Hausas were only settlers. Easily, they recount their oral tradition dating back to 1767 when Mele an itinerant Hausa trader from Niger was given a portion of land in the heart of the town to settle after many years of trade relations with them. Soon, according to them, Mele was joined by his kinsmen.  Hence, the name Zango‑Kataf (which means transit camp in Kataf). But the Hausa community said the claim by the Kataf was humbug. Said Tasau: “Their claim is false. We all came together with a set of people called Chagwu. The Kataf people met us here. The real name of Zango‑Kataf was Zango‑Katabiri. They came, gradually surrounded us, and eventually changed the name.  Jui Kweyembanang, district head of Kataf, said it is this conflicting story told by the Hausas that has continued to irritate the Kataf people. Said he: “As long as the Hausas continue to deny the fact that they are settlers, trouble will not cease in this part of the state.”[li]


Of course this outbreak of violence did not solve the problems, which only festered in the absence of solutions, especially of the underlying causes.  Persons on both sides made preparations for more violence, and warned that they would not hesitate to settle their disagreements violently.  “They have put their hands into our nose.  When next they try putting them in our eyes, we will resist it,” a Hausa who gave his name as Isiaka Abubakar was quoted as saying. Abubakar was further quoted as saying that the Hausas were now contemplating changing the name of the town to assert their ownership of it. “We shall never remain with them again,” he said.”[lii]

This violence was typical of patterns of ethnic violence which periodically break out in the so-called Middle Belt of Nigeria, as mentioned above.  Thus many observers attributed more fundamental causes to the violence than the mere argument over the siting of a market.  A Kaduna lawyer who wished not to be named “cited similar crises in the past, like the Kasuman‑Magani crisis in 1984, Kure and Kahuga crisis of 1924, Lere chieftancy crisis 1987, Zango‑Kataf disturbance in 1984 and Kafanchan riot 1987 as examples of disturbances fueled by the emirate system.”  He suggested that there could be future danger for the state, and said that all these the conflicts were caused by “rising consciousness.””People are questioning old systems of domination” especially “the imposition of rulers other than theirs.”[liii]  At the same time, many Hausa felt, rightly or wrongly, that their traditional domination of northern Nigeria was dissolving, while minority groups, rightly or wrongly, complained of attacks on Christian churches and purges of the Nigerian military and bureaucracy designed to eliminate them from important positions in the country, as well as the continuation of Islamic courts in areas where the majority of people are Christians.[liv]  In fact, in 1990 the Christian Association of Nigeria had allegedly recruited military veterans to train its members in military arts for self-defense.  The federal government took steps to prevent this, but the lack of faith in the government and its ability to defend its citizens was obvious.[lv]

Others also blamed the continuation of a system of indirect rule, in which some peoples were subordinated to chiefdoms dominated by others.  Specifically, the Tyap and other predominantly Christian and non-Hausa communities in southern Zaria were under the control of the Muslim Hausa Emir of Zaria.  District heads from these areas, regardless of their religion, were required to pay homage to the Emir during various Islamic festivals.  Since land tenure was under the jurisdiction of  ‘traditional rulers,’ the Emir of Zaria was theoretically in charge of land for all of these communities, ensuring that land tenure, like religion, language, dress and other factors, would become one of the issues dividing the Hausa of Zaria from the non-Hausa in the south of the emirate.[lvi]  Thus the differing political traditions of the people involved, as well as their different traditions of land tenure, in addition to the growth of modern concepts of political equality between groups and individuals, were factors in these periodic outbreaks of violence.

Even had the two sides shared political culture and agreed on how to mediate the dispute, there is a larger contradiction in the continued existence of indirect rule under a democratic government that is too touchy for many Nigerians to want to deal with (see chart 1). Under the system of indirect rule the British colonial administration was supposed to rule people under their traditional chiefs.  In a democratic government, rulers are supposed to be responsible to the people who elect them, but in the Nigerian system local areas are still, to a large extent, administered by traditional authorities who are appointed by the government, which in turn is supposed to be elected by the same people whom the government administered indirectly through chiefs.  Thus the question of political power is ultimately circular and the level on which political power actually rests remains a question.  Only in a military administration is it entirely clear by whom power is exercised.  However, it should be noted that the attempt by the military to impose a new Sultan on Sokoto after the death of His Highness Abubakar III resulted in several days of rioting by citizens who rejected the appointment, and/or the legitimacy of the militarys making it.  Further, the system of traditional authorities is popular with many of Nigerias peoples, not only the Hausa.  However much the existence of traditional authorities may seem to contradict democracy, it is doubtful if it could be democratically, or even dictatorially, abolished.

The subsequent handling of the crisis by the state authorities was also criticized.  Alhaji Dabo Muhammad Lere, the newly elected civilian governor of the state, appointed a seven‑member commission of inquiry following the riots. The commission was assigned to investigate and to recommend appropriate measures for the government to take. However well-intended,  Lere’s actions were almost immediately criticized for bias. A memo jointly signed by “concerned Kataf elites” charged that the commission was dominated by Muslims.  Furthermore, the venue of the commission was also criticized. It was shifted from first from Zongwa, the Zango‑Kataf local government council headquarters, to Kafanchan, and finally to Kaduna.

“We can’t understand this,” local government chairman Ayok was quoted as saying. “We are still pleading with the government to reconsider its decision. How do you start carrying old men to Kaduna every day to testify?”

Yusufu Audu, an accountant with a legal firm in Kaduna, was also reported to have said that “If the work of the commission is politicised it might fail to come up with far‑reaching decisions to curb further occurrences.” Audu also said that various state government administrations had instituted various forms of inquiry with orders to establish both ultimate and immediate causes of clashes, but that results of the inquiries had never been released. He was further quoted as saying that: “The inconclusive nature of these inquiries or the non‑implementation simply implies the inability on the parts of the government to get into the root causes of these problems.”[lvii]  In the wake of the riots other calls for more fundamental changes were made, such as the creation of a ministry of religious affairs[lviii] and the assumption of responsibility for national defense by every local government in the federation, or in other words the militarization of Nigerian society.[lix]

Other observers denied that there were deeper or underlying causes to the outbreak of violence.  In the leading Hausa language newspaper, Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo, Kaduna Governor Lere himself contradicted rumors that religious and tribal differences had caused the outbreak of violence in Zangon Kataf. He refuted this allegation (zargi) when he gave a speech to the people (al’ummar) of Zangon Kataf.  He said that the trouble had simply resulted from a misunderstanding (rashin fahimta) which happened to those who were engaged in marketing in the district.  He said that the problem of the market location, which had been discussed for a long time, was what began this trouble.  Some people had used this opportunity to destroy property and remove goods.  Gov. Lere warned the people of the state to avoid spreading rumors concerning the outbreak.  He said he had given the police orders to arrest anyone spreading false rumors or who could suddenly lose his temper concerning the riots. He assured the people of Kaduna State that his government was prepared to take steps to make a thorough investigation of the causes of this incident (lamari) at Zangon Kataf. He said that as soon as the committee that he had entrusted with the responsibility (alhaki) of carrying out this investigation had finished its work,  his government would not exercise any favoritism towards anyone caught with a hand in the affair.[lx]

This explanation of an absence of any ethnic factor in the violence contradicted a previously released official press report from State Government.  This press release, as reported in Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo, had described the outbreak (rikici) as one of ‘ûabilanci’ (tribalism), although it also noted that the immediate cause of the troubles was an attempt to move the town market to a new location.  It also said that initial police reports from the scene confirmed at least 30 dead.  Governor Lere had issued a condolence message, prayed for the souls of those who had perished, and set up a commission to investigate.  He further said that perpetrators would be dealt with according to law, and implored people to live together peaceably, and to avoid any incitement to violence.  For three nights there had been no entering or leaving the town of Zangon Kataf, millions of Naira of property had been destroyed, but things had returned to normal by the time of the press report.[lxi]

The police investigation of the immediate causes of the riot claimed that the head of the local government area was responsible for causing the trouble.  His order to require people to attend the new market was rejected by the Hausa in the town, which caused the violence. Chief of Police[lxii] Abdullahi Lawal said that when he went to find the local government authorities he did not find them at home but rather at home, but rather in a hiding place in the hamlet of Kwago.  He further testified that he saw persons dressed in apparel which led him to believe that they were retired former soldiers.[lxiii]



4.             Transition: the politics of democracy

While this local conflagration was taking place in an isolated village in a remote part of southern Kaduna province, forces were at work which would involve this local struggle in the larger politics of the Babangida administrations transition to democracy.  The ethnic politics, and the ethnic alliances, of that transition program were to figure in making the next outbreak of violence one which would spread to the state capital and involve the federal government at the highest level. As one Nigerian political scientist who was closely watching events has explained:


… in the period leading up to the election of June 12, various patriotic forces were coming together from all corners of this country to forge formidable alliances, despite their political differences, with the view to making sure that Babangida’s military government is not given an opportunity to extend its life‑span by a single day. This tendency was particularly strong within the SDP. This is so because a process which had started in the Second Republic was given a new impetus within the SDP. It was an alliance that brought together, the PRP, NPP and UPN, essentially the anti‑NPN platform which was being built before the Buhari coup of December 1983.

“In the revamped shape it has recently re‑emerged, it also has on board some former members of the NPN, notable among whom are Chief Moshood Abiola, Major‑General Shehu Yar’Adua, Dr. Sola Saraki, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir and even Chief Oduegwu Ojukwu at a point. Also on the platform are some retired military officers from southern Kaduna State, including Major‑General Zamani Lekwot. It seems to me that, the emergence of this alliance within the SDP had upset some religious and tribal bigots. On April 24, 1992, a meeting was held in Kaduna, by some members of this alliance, to prepare for the launching of presidential campaigns of professor Jerry Gana in tandem with that of Alhaji Lateef Jakande on May 8, 1992 at Kaduna. Two days later, there was a gruesome massacre of “Hausa‑Fulani settlers” and Muslims in Zangon Kataf.

“My observations of this process within the SDP indicate that some of these bigots see religion and ethnicity as the sole vehicle in which they could drive themselves into power. Like vultures, biased journalists, religious and ethnic bigots and foreign detractors of Nigeria swooped on this tragedy. They fueled it, in order to undermine reconciliation, thereby frustrating efforts towards the emergence of progressive political forces on a common platform. By so doing, there were giving this military government, yet another justification to subvert the transition programme.

“. . . The tragedy was certainly a serious setback for this alliance. However it weathered the storm. If anything the June 12 elections confirmed this; both religious and ethnic bigots, together with those foreign detractors, including the BBC, were proved wrong. It is the concretization of this alliance within the SDP which produced a muslim [sic] Yoruba SDP presidential candidate with a muslim [sic] Kanuri running mate, who received support from millions of Nigerians across the ethnic and religious groups and also ensured one of the most free and fair elections, despite the desperate attempt by Babangida, through the ABN and some elements within the judiciary to subvert the terminal phase of the transition programme.”[lxiv]


Such extremists seem to have been operating on both sides, attempting to divide the Hausa and Tyap from each other in order to increase their own influence over other members of their own groups and thus foster their own attempts to gain power.  Such strategies involved elimination of moderate voices on both sides and increasing the level of ethnic and religious conflict and tension.  The actual path to the next outbreak of violence was probably more complicated than will ever be known, but as much of it can be reconstructed here is sufficient to explain the virulence and the volatility of the outbreak.  The large number of divisive issues (including not only ethnicity, but also land tenure, religion, chieftancy and others) which were involved in the conflict, and the way they reinforced each other and applied to large numbers of other ethnic groups, ensured that the conflict would widen beyond the small town of Zangon Kataf.  Finally, the seeming intractability of the problem ensured that the military would seem to many people the only hope of holding Nigerian society together. Thus, while the riots in Kaduna were not directly used as a legitimating device when the military decided to cancel the results of the June 12th election, there were certainly many Nigerians who felt they had had enough of democracy already and who looked forward to the security and stability of an authoritarian military regime that would put the genies of ethnic and religious conflict back in their bottles.



5.             The second outbreak

As the governors commission of investigation was increasingly seen as biased, members of both communities felt threatened by members of the other, that they were not being protected by the civil authorities, and thus that they had to take measures to defend themselves.

Tyap activists alleged that Hausa residents of Zangon Kataf began stockpiling weapons and inviting professional fighters ( ;yan tauri) from other communities.  Although vehicles involved were sometimes detained by the police, the weapons sometimes disappeared from police custody, or were released by Islamic court judges.  The Tyap residents of the area thus claimed that they had no protection from the state security apparatus.  They further alleged that beginning on the morning of Wednesday, 13th May 1992, ironically the same day the Cudjoe panel of investigation into the earlier outbreak of violence ended hearing evidence,[lxv] ‘a gang of Hausa youth launched an operation to provoke the Tyap by destroying crops and animals located or found within a four kilometer radius of Zangon Kataf’.  This alleged harassment continued the next day.  Although names of some of the perpetrators were reported to the police in writing, nothing was done about it.  According to the Tyap side of the story, the governors continued favoritism made conflict inevitable.  ‘Given the prevailing charged atmosphere, given the various threats that were being made on a daily basis by the Hausa, and given the open secret that the Zango community had been stockpiling secret weapons, it is quite understandable that the Atyap had no choice but to respond to these latest acts of provocation by rising up in self-defence.’[lxvi]

On the other hand, on 9th May, 1992, approximately a week before the outbreak of violence, an Islamic society in the town of Zangon Kataf, the Nigerian Aid Group of the Jamaatu Izalatul Bidia WaIkamatul Sunna (popularly known in Hausa as the *Yan Izala), had appealed to the Sultan of Sokoto for protection against the Tyap.  They claimed that despite the appointment of an investigating commission, several Hausa farmers, mentioned by name, had been prevented from farming due to Tyap threats and assaults carried out with traditional hunting guns. Physical damage had also been done to their farms by Tyap miscreants.  Perpetrators had not been arrested despite pleas to the Commissioner of Police.  They warned that if their legitimate grievances were not addressed, someone would take the law into his own hands and defend the Muslims in a jihad, as was ordained by the Qur‘an.[lxvii]  Thus each side feared the other, and felt that the governmental authorities were against them.

The increasing scarcity of farmland, caused by population growth, was also turning a previously abstract and theoretical disagreement about who had rights to land into a vital issue with the potential for causing an even more violent conflict than the siting of the market had.[lxviii]  As predicted by both the Tyap and the Hausa complaints about each others harassment of farmers, it was conflict over rights to farmland which led to the next outbreak of violence in Zangon Kataf, the outbreak of which spread to Kaduna.

On Friday, May 15th, fighting broke out.  According to Hausa sources, a Tyap mob sealed off the town while Muslims in Zangon Kataf were in congregational prayers.  When prayers were finished they began a massacre of the inhabitants, burning their houses.  Although fighting on Friday seems to have been inconclusive, the early morning of Saturday saw the introduction of automatic weapons fire.  This time the massacre was systematic and carefully executed.  Police confirmed that they had heard the sound of machine guns from Zonkwa, six kilometers away, and that they recovered many 9mm shells and other evidence of sophisticated weapons being used. The main attacks seems to have come from the Tyap villages of Gidan Kondo and Sarkin Kwaku.[lxix]

Of course the Tyap story was different.  When they inquired as to why their farms had been destroyed they were met with lethal violence, or so they claimed.[lxx]

There was one thing all agreed upon. By the end of Saturday Zangon Kataf was a disaster area, as the burnt-out shells of houses and vehicles littered the area, and surviving women and children begged to be evacuated elsewhere.[lxxi]   By the time the police arrived in force there was little to be done except clean up the corpses.[lxxii]  An estimated 88 persons, 149 houses and over 50 motor vehicles were destroyed, according to preliminary press reports.  Police Commissioner Alhaji Ibrahim Atta said that the exact numbers were difficult to determine until the investigation had been completed.  Regarding the accusation that police had been more interested in saving themselves than in stopping the riots he said he knew of no evidence that would support such a conclusion.[lxxiii]

This subsequent evacuation or survivors was what touched off the rioting in Kaduna. Many of the orphans, widows and wounded survivors were taken to the house of Sheikh Abubakar Gummi, one of the most prominent Muslim intellectuals in Nigeria.  Although many of his followers called for him to announce a jihad to revenge the massacre, the Sheikh refused. Instead he appeared on television with the governor, Alhaji Dabo Muhammad Lere, to call for peace even as the riots in Kaduna began on Sunday evening.

This television appearance was doubly disastrous. First, the broadcast began with Sheikh Gummi speaking to Muslims in Hausa and Arabic, a fact which served to alienate the Christian community, however much it may have served to calm Muslims.[lxxiv]  Second, the camera caught the governor ‘smiling amiably’[lxxv] which was interpreted by many Christians to mean that he was happy about the revenge killings by Hausa Muslims.  At this point no calls for peace, whether by the Sheikh, the governor, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna, Peter Jatau, or by the Emir of Zaria, had any effect.

The riots were underway and would only be stopped by force.[lxxvi]  A Muslim mob began hunting Christians from southern Kaduna state.  They set ablaze the Celestial Church at Unguwar Sanusi.  They moved on to attack Atyap quarters at Rigasa, as other mobs began to attack concentrations of southern Kaduna people at Kabala West.  On the By-pass road vehicles and their drivers were attacked, whether or not they were from northern Nigeria.  A mob attacked the Evangelical Churches of West Africa (ECWA) church in Unguwar Rimi, killing the pastor of the Hausa language service.  Unguwar Sarki, one of the most heavily Muslim and Hausa neighborhoods in Kaduna, also exploded as a mob took position on the main road, burning vehicles and attacking known Christians.

One of the most densely populated areas was the site of some of the worst violence.  Around midnight a Hausa mob in Badarawa attacked a group of Christians who had taken refuge in the the Apostolic church.  The groups battled for hours, until finally the attackers demolished the church and killed the pastor and several others.

In other areas the southern Kaduna Christian groups were able to defend themselves better.  At Kawo, Unguwar Kanawa and Karbala West defenders were able to beat back the mobs.  Then they went on the offensive.  At Makera they set fire to a house, slaughtering the occupants when they emerged.  Houses with Hausa signs reading ‘Ba a shiga’ (Do not enter.[lxxvii]) were singled out for attack.  Hausa were also attacked in Unguwar Television (also known as Television Village) and Narayi, both predominately Christian neighborhoods, as well as at Unguwar Mu‘azu.

In areas with a more even ethno-religious balance, such as Sabon Tasha and Narayi, fighting continued on Monday and even Tuesday.  Relative peace prevailed in Kabala Costain and Kabala Doki, despite attacks on three churches.  In Barnawa a large group of Ibos defended a mosque and prevented violence from breaking out there.  But the only places that were really safe from violence were the police stations and barracks and the military installations around the city, especially the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA).

As police and military appeared in full force Monday, the rioting began to subside.  Persons on both sides accused police of siding with those on other sides, but the sheer numbers of the police made further rioting and violence unsustainable, although the military and police were also accused of unnecessary and unprovoked violence themselves.

The governor of neighboring Kano State, Alhaji Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya appealed for calm and met with religious and other leaders to discuss ways to promote peace in the state.  He also warned anyone who might conspire against the peace and security of the state to flee the anger of the government.  He said he would take any steps necessary to protect the lives and property of the people of Kano state, warned against spreading rumors, and thanked God for the wonderful gift of peace that he had given Kano state.[lxxviii]

In a front page editorial the major Hausa language newspaper in Kano, Albishir, touched on not only the Zangon Kataf outbreak, but on other cases of tribal and religious violence that had taken place in recent years in northern Nigeria.  Although a second outbreak had occurred just as the official report about the first outbreak was about to be handed over, attention should still be paid to the report of the causes of the first outbreak, and use made of its advice.  The newspaper warned people against allowing themselves to be used by those who would start violence, and said that since colonial times various peoples had lived together in the country as one, with little distinction between Kanuri, Yoruba, Ibo, Kataf or Tiv, because of the tribe one originated from or because of ones facial marks.  But now, with progress and enlightenment everywhere, such problems seemed to be increasing.  There was no state in Nigeria which didn’t have different ethnic groups and religions living together, and an outbreak of religious or ethnic violence was not a small harm to do to the country, especially since people tended to pass the grudge down to their descendants.   Thus religious and tribal wars were the worst kind since they never finished.  Furthermore, such outbreaks hindered foreign investment and other forms of capital accumulation in the country, and were the very antithesis of progress.  Therefore the government should spare no steps to apprehend and punish the perpetrators, as well as to relieve the victims.[lxxix]


6. The aftermath

Once again a special commission was set up to investigate.[lxxx]  But the matter refused to die.  Not only were residential patterns in Kaduna segregated by religion, perhaps permanently, but the appeals of the various groups for justice only succeeded in alienating the others.[lxxxi]  Nearly two years later there were still nearly 300 refugees living in a camp, many of whom said they were still fearful to return home.[lxxxii]  The question of who started the riots and who was responsible for which acts soon became overshadowed by the controversy over the special tribunal which charged retired Major General Zamani Lekwot and several other prominent Tyap with conspiracy, a trial which could itself be the subject of a major study and which there is not enough room to deal with here.

The underlying problems continued to fester and to result in new outbreaks of violence.  In May of 1999 such an outbreak occurred in Kafanchan, also in southern Kaduna state, when many residents of Jama‘a emirate took the opportunity of the appointment of a new Emir of Jama‘a to protest not only this appointment but the entire emirate system.  Unfortunately the protest turned into rioting between the Hausa minority and the non-Hausa majority resulting in the deaths of perhaps 30 persons and the injury of several others.


Chart one: the contradictions of democracy and indirect rule

Mulkin Turawa (Colonial Rule)
Sarkin Ingila (The British Government)

Gwamnati (the colonial administration)

hukuma (traditional authorities)

jama’a (the people)


Dimuûuradiyya (democracy)


jama’a (the people)

Gwamnati (the colonial administration)

hukuma (traditional authorities)

jama’a (the people)




* Associate Professor at Faculty of Humanities , Hirosaki University.
[i]. I wish to thank the large number of Nigerians (Hausa, Tyap and others) who provided me with materials from the Nigerian English language press relevant to the investigation of this incident.  In this situation it is probably best if most of them remain anonymous.  My access to coverage of the incident in Hausa newspapers was made possible by subscriptions I had purchased during my research into the development of Hausa language policy and culture change during the colonial period. This research was paid for by the Japanese Ministry of Education on a grant to study language policy and culture change in West Africa, principal investigator Paul Kazuhisa Eguchi.
[ii]. Bola Olowo in Lagos [sic] Babangida’s carrot and stickWest Africa 1-7 June, 1992 page 915, where the nondescriptnature of the town is confirmed by its being spelled Zango Kantaf [sic].
[iii]. 25-31 May, 1992  Sectarian violencepp. 887-8
[iv]. Bola Olowo, “Babangida’s carrot and stick” West Africa 1 June 1992 pages 914‑5
[v]. Samuel G. Egwu Agrarian Question and Rural Ethnic Conflicts in Nigeria chapter 3 in Ethnic Conflicts in Africa edited by Okwudiba Nnoli (1998, Dakar)
[vi]. Abdul Raufu Mustapha Identity Boundaries, Ethnicity and National Integration in Nigeriachapter 2 in Nnoli (ed.) Ethnic Conflicts
[vii]. For a more general background to religious conflict in norther Nigeria see Matthew Hassan Kukah Religion, Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria (Ibadan; 1993).  This book was written before the outbreaks of violence in Zangon Kataf but published after.
[viii]. Zango is a Hausa word meaning a caravan resting place.  It is common in place names around west Africa since many such resting places grew into towns.  Katab or Kataf is a Hausa pronunciation of the Tyap word for their language.  The Tyap language uses prefixes, as do the related Bantu languages.  The Hausa language has no phonemic /p/ sound, and thus the term ki-Tyap was pronounced in Hausa as either Katab or Katafdepending on the speaker.
[ix]. Harold D. Gunn, (ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria London, 1956, page 71 Katab of Zangon Katab District
[x]. Richard Lander Record of Captain Clapperton’ s Last Expedition to Africa (London; 1830; 1967)
[xi].Harold D. Gunn, (ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria London 1956


[xii]. Harold D. Gunn (ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria (London 1956) page  73; for the Shokwa as rainmakers see C. K. Meek Tribal Studies in Northern Nigeria (London 1931, 1976) volume 2 page 5
[xiii]. Meek Tribal Studies pages 3-5
[xiv].C. K. Meek Tribal Studies pages 76-78, page 12 n. 1
[xv]. Harold D. Gunn, (ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria (London 1956) page 74
[xvi]. C.L. Temple   Notes on the Tribes, Provinces, Emirates and States of the Northern Provinces of Nigeria (2nd edition) Lagos (1922) page 222
[xvii]. Harold D. Gunn (ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria London 1956 page 70
[xviii]. Harold D. Gunn,(ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria (London, 1956) page 79
[xix]. Harold D. Gunn (ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria London 1956 pages 72‑3
[xx]. Harold D. Gunn,(ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria (London 1956) pp. 65-121, especially p. 68
[xxi]. Our recent experience has taught us that the pagan Gwaris, Kedaras, and other tribes yield to none in bravery.  They all speak Hausa, and I hope to enlist many as soon as we get into touch with them at the new headquarters.  It is, in fact, my desire to make the West African Frontier Force, as far as possible, a Hausa‑speaking pagan force, and I am con­vinced that it will thus be a far more reli­able source of military strength. Lugard, Northern Nigeria Annual Reports number 346 1900‑1901 page 23.  I am indebted to Dr. Murray Last, University College London, for the full text of this quotation.
[xxii]. R. Brian Ferguson ,Tribal Warfare Scientific American January 1992, pages 108 et.seq.
[xxiii]. Harold D. Gunn (ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria London 1956 pages  68‑69
[xxiv]. ibid p. 74n
[xxv]. ibid. p. 75n
[xxvi]. ibid. p. 75n
[xxvii]. Smith, M.G. Government in Zazzau 1800‑1950 (Oxford 1960)
[xxviii]. ibid. p. 177
[xxix]. M.G. Smith, Government in Zazzau 1800‑1950  page 195 Oxford
[xxx]. M.G. Smith Government in Zazzau 1800‑1950 pages 248, 132 (Oxford 1960)
[xxxi]. Harold D. Gunn, (ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria (London 1956) page 75
[xxxii]. information obtained in conversations with Tyap Christians
[xxxiii]. For an overview of political and administrative changes in the middle belt during the colonial era, see Pagan Administration and Political Development in Northern Nigeriaby J.A. Ballard Savanna: a Journal of the Environmental and Social Sciences published at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria v. 1, no. 1, June 1972 pages 1-14.
[xxxiv]. C. W. Cole (Senior District Officer) Report on Land Tenure, Zaria Province (1948) pages 20-23
[xxxv]. Cole, Report on Land Tenure page 24
[xxxvi]. Cole, Report on Land Tenure pages 20-23
[xxxvii]. Cole, Report on Land Tenure pages 27-28. For more details on traditional Hausa land tenure, including the effects of Islam and British colonialism, see Land Tenure among the Rural Hausa by William W. Starns, Jr. (U.S. ISSN 0084-0793) LTC No. 104, The Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1974)
[xxxviii]. Cole, Report on Land Tenure pages 26-27
[xxxix]. Harold D. Gunn, (ed.) Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Western Africa Part XII: Pagan Peoples of the Central Area of Northern Nigeria (London 1956) page 69
[xl]. James Uloko “Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992
[xli]. Simon Ochai ,Okewu Kataf and Hausa at WarNational Impression volume 3 number 1 (1992) pages 1-2
[xlii]. James Uloko “Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992 page 24
[xliii]. Simon Ochai Okewu ,Kataf and Hausa at War National Impression volume 3 number 1 (1992) page 2
[xliv]. Simon Ochai Okewu Kataf and Hausa at War National Impression volume 3 number 1 (1992) page 2
[xlv].  According to Simon Ochai Okewu (Kataf and Hausa at War National Impression volume 3 number 1 (1992) pages 1-2) Ayok claimed he never got the injunction.  According to James Uloko (“Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992 page 24) Ayok claimed he inherited the decision from a previous council.  This version implies that he ignored the court order.
[xlvi]. Simon Ochai Okewu ,Kataf and Hausa at War National Impression volume 3 number 1 (1992) pages 2-5
[xlvii]. James Uloko “Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992 page 24. The death of Shan Awai was also reported by Simon Ochai Okewu in Kataf and Hausa at War National Impression volume 3 number 1 (1992) page 5
[xlviii].  James Uloko “Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992 page 24
[xlix]. Simon Ochai Okewu Kataf and Hausa at War National Impression volume 3 number 1 (1992) page 6.  Given that in such a small town, most people on both sides would be well known to each other, and that in every other particular eyewitnesses had no trouble whatsoever naming particular individuals involved in the violence to reporters, it is likely that the tale of machine guns being used was generated by panic in the aftermath of the violence.
[l]. Umar Zariya, Ahmad An Hana Yin Farauta a Wasu ananan Hukumomin Jihar Kaduna Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo February 24, 1992 page 2
[li].James Uloko “Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992
[lii]. James Uloko “Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992
[liii]. James Uloko “Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992 p. 25
[liv]. Simon Ochai Okewu Kataf and Hausa at WarNational Impression volume 3 number 1 (1992) page 7
[lv]. Simon Ochai Okewu Kataf and Hausa at War National Impression volume 3 number 1 (1992) page 8
[lvi]. James Uloko “Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992
[lvii]. James Uloko “Killing Field” Newswatch March 16, 1992. It is not, strictly speaking, correct to allege that no reports of disturbances have ever been released.  For example, the official White Paper on the Report of the Committee to Investigate Causes of Riots and Disturbances in Kaduna State 6th – 12th March, 1987 was printed by the Government Printer, Kaduna and released publicly.  It runs to 129 pages and contains a large quantity of evidence, including testimony, and identifies immediate and remote causes of the violence.
[lviii]. An Nemi Gwamnati ta iriro Ma&ikatar Harkokin Addini Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo February 24, 1992, page 8
[lix]. Tsohon Gwamna ya Bayyana Hanyar Magance Rigingimun Addini da abilanci Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo February 24, 1992, page 8
[lx]. Anonymous “Rikicin Zangon Kataf Ba Na Addini Ba Ne ‑ In Ji Gwamnan Jihar Kaduna” [Zangon Kataf Incident not Religious – so says Governor of Kaduna]  Gaskiya February 20 page 1  (rikici is defined in Newman & Newman’s dictionary as (1) causing trouble (2) disagreeableness (3) intrigue)
[lxi]. Balarabe Ladan Lemu “An Kashe Mutane 30 A Zangon Kataf” [30 persons killed in Zangon Kataf] Gaskiya February 13, 1992 page 1
[lxii].  Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo gave his title as Babban Jami&in an Sanda, literally ‘big leader of police’
[lxiii]. Balarabe Ladan Lemu, Binciken &Yan Sanda ya Nuna Cewa – Shugaban aramar Hukumar Zangon Kataf ne ya Haddasa Rikici Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo March 16, 1992 page 1
[lxiv]. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, Department of Political Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria “Democracy is built on consistency and honesty: An open letter to Alao Aka Bashorun” Citizen July 26, 1993
[lxv]. Mayhem in Kaduna Citizen May 25, 1992 page 10; According to the Hausa newspaper Albishir the committee heard 47 witnesses and took 44 depositions.  (Jamila Nuhu Musa Kwamitin Binciken Zangon-Katab Zai Mia Rahotonsa Albishir, 13 ga Mayu 1992 page 1)
[lxvi]. Zangon Kataf Crisis: the real issues involved (text of press conference addressed by Dr. Yusufu Bungon and Tauna Gimba on behalf of the Kataf community)typewritten photocopy in English, 19th June, 1992
[lxvii]. Aliyu I. Jibrin for Secretary, Nigerian Aid Group of the Jama’atu Izalatul Bidi’a Wa’Ikamatul Sunna, Zangon Kataf Division, Kuka Domin Neman Share Hawaye (plea for the wiping of tears) a letter in Hausa to his Highness, Sarkin Musulmi (king of the Muslims, the Hausa translation of Amir al-Mu’minin or commander of the faithful), Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, with copies to the Governor of Kaduna, Emir of Zaria, Emir of Kano, Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, the head of the State Security Service, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, the Jama’atu Izalatul Bidi’a Wa’Ikamatus Sunna, and various other Islamic organizations and local rulers in the area.
[lxviii]. For an analysis of the ways in which conflict over increasingly scarce resources can lead to social conflict see Environmental Change and Violent Conflict by Thomas F. Homer-Dixon, Jeffrey H. Boutwell and George W. Rathjens, Scientific American, February 1993 pages 16-23. This conflict in particular seems to have come about largely because of competition over scarce resources, as shown by the prominence of the issue of first the market and later farmland.
[lxix].  Mayhem in Kaduna Citizen May 25, 1992 page 11; and Mohammed Yaro ,How Zango Town Fell Northern Nigeria in Perspective volume I number 2 (October 1992) pages 20-22.
[lxx]. Falola, Toyin Violence in Nigeria (Rochester, 1998) page 217. Falola gives May 14 as the date of the outbreak of violence, but as this was a Thursday there would not have been a large congregation in the mosque.
[lxxi].  Mayhem in Kaduna Citizen May 25, 1992 page 11; and Mohammed Yaro How Zango Town Fell Northern Nigeria in Perspective volume I number 2 (October 1992) pages 20-22.
[lxxii]. Falola Violence page 217
[lxxiii].  An Bayyana arnar Yamutsin Zangon Katab Albishir, Laraba (Wednesday) 3 ga Yuni, 1992, page 1
[lxxiv]. Zangon Kataf Crisis: the real issues involved (text of press conference addressed by Dr. Yusufu Bungon and Tauna Gimba on behalf of the Kataf community) typewritten photocopy in English, 19th June, 1992 page 6
[lxxv]. Mayhem in Kaduna Citizen May 25, 1992 page 14
[lxxvi]. This account of the riots is taken from Mahmud Jega (with reports from Mohammed Haruna, Adamu Adamu, Mohammed Bomai, Abu Mommoh, Rabiu Barde, Joe Olajuwon and Zainab Okino) Hausa/Katab Conflict: Mayhem in KadunaThe Citizen May 25, 1992 pages 10-19.
[lxxvii]. This notice presumably signifies a Muslim house, which is haram,or forbidden to persons from outside the household.
[lxxviii]. Isa Abba Sa’ idu Gwamnan Kano Ya Nemi Jama’a su Zauna Lafiya Albishir 20 ga Mayu 1992 page 1
[lxxix]. Ra’ayin Albishir: Hattara Dai Jama’a Albishir 3 ga Yuni 1992 page 1
[lxxx]. Ahmad Abubakar Kotun Bincike Ya Nemi Gudumawar Jama’a Albishir 10 ga Yuni 1992
[lxxxi]. ðungiyar matan ûabilun Kataf da Kaje sun yi zanga-zanga Albishir 15 ga Yuli 1992 page 1
[lxxxii]. Salla cikin Yan gudun Hijirar Zangon Kataf Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo 28 ga Maris 1994 page 2

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