Order On Herders To Vacate Forest: Presidency, Akeredolu At War
NEWSMAN, Abuja – Following Governor Aekredolu’s order asking herdsmen to leave the Ondo state government forest reserves, the Presidency on Tuesday cautioned Ondo State Governor, against breaching the constitution in securing the state.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu who ejected the herdsmen, also banned under-aged grazing, night grazing, movement of cattle within the cities and highways. He also gave the herdsmen seven days ultimatum to comply with the order.
A statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, noted that “The Presidency has been keenly monitoring events occurring in Ondo State and the ‘orders’ by the government of the state, ‘asking herders to vacate the forests in seven days.’
“What is emerging, is a lack of consistency in messaging, which in turn leads to various contradictions regarding the accuracy and the intent behind the message.
“There is little to be said other than to call for restraint on both sides and urge the state government and the leadership of the Fulani communities to continue their dialogue for a good understanding that will bring to an urgent end, the nightmarish security challenges facing the state”, the statement read.
“Governor Akeredolu, a seasoned lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and indeed, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has fought crime in his state with passion and commitment, greater sensitivity and compassion for the four years he has run its affairs and, in our view, will be the least expected to unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals.
“We want to make it clear that kidnapping, banditry and rustling are crimes, no matter the motive or who is involved.
“But, to define crime from the nameplates, as a number of commentators have erroneously done – which group they belong to, the language they speak, their geographical location or their faith is atavistic and cruel.
“We need to delink terrorism and crimes from ethnicity, geographical origins and religion—to isolate the criminals who use this interchange of arguments to hinder law enforcement efforts as the only way to deal effectively with them.
“The President, who swore to defend the constitution has spoken against the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in asking citizens of Northern origin to leave; he did not spare the group based in Sokoto, ‘Muslim Solidarity Forum,’ which asked the Bishop of Sokoto to leave and is prepared to do all that the law permits to protect citizens all over the country in their choice of where they wished to reside and are treated as equal citizens.
“The government of Ondo and all the 35 others across the federation must draw clear lines between the criminals and the law-abiding citizens who must equally be saved from the infiltrators. Beyond law and order, the fight against crime is also a fight for human values which are fundamental to our country”, the statement added.
‘Nobody said herdsmen should leave’ – Ondo Commissioner
Reacting to the presidency’s statement, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, said the Presidency statement had stated “unambiguously, the position of the Federal Government.
“The Ondo State Government did not ask Fulani to leave the state. The governor said herdsmen who are unregistered should leave our forests. The statement from Garba Shehu is brazen display of emotional attachments and it’s very inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria. We need clearly defined actions on the part of the Federal Government to decimate the erroneous impression that the inspiration of these criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen is that of power. Our unity is threatened, no doubt.
Governor Akeredolu, who is also Chairman of the Southwest Governors Forum, warned criminal elements using the forest to perpetrate evil to henceforth expect fire for fire.
“Recent security trends attest that these times require all hands to be on the deck as the difficulties we face are dire. The challenges are quite enormous but we are determined to confront them head-on.
“We decided that all the criminal elements who hide under various guises to aid the destruction of farmlands as well as perpetrate other violent crimes such as kidnapping, drug peddling and other nefarious activities, must be stamped out of our dear state”, Akeredolu said.
‘Our members are not kidnappers’ – MACBAN Chairman
But the state chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Mallam Garuba Bello said: “We support what Governor Akeredolu has said; he did not say Fulani should leave the state, but he wants the criminals to leave the state. We need peace in the state and the governor’s order will bring peace.
“Our members are not involved in kidnapping; our members are very responsible. Anybody that kidnaps or does criminal activities should be dealt with.”
Governor Akeredolu has taken the right step – Afenifere
Secretary-General of Afenifere, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, said Governor Akeredolu has taken the right step because “illegal people have virtually taken over our lands in the state.”
“Akeredolu is on the right path, especially if the occupation of those places or any place in the state is inimical to the development of the state. Akeredolu, as the Chief Security officer of the state, can exercise this power. “He has shown to be a true Nigerian when he said that any of the herdsmen who wants to stay in any part of the state must first register”, he said.
Femi Fani Kayode supports Akeredolu, says Presidency’s assertion, ‘absurd’
Also, Former Aviation Minister Fani Kayode in a tweet on Wednesday said that the assertion by Garba Shehu that herdsmen have a right to reside in the forests of Ondo and South West was ‘insulting, provocative, asinine and absurd.’
According to him, “Quit notices cannot be given to law-abiding citizens in any part of Nigeria but must be given to those that kill, steal and seek to destroy the lives of others. Murderous terrorists and bloodthirsty and evil men that hide in the forest to ambush, kidnap, kill and destroy innocent and hardworking men and women have no constitutional rights.
“It is the duty of Governnent to not only flush them out from whichever hole they are hiding but also to despatch them to hell where they belong.
“Akeredolu has done and said the right thing and I urge every single SW Governor to do the same. Fulanis, Hausas, Igbos, Ijaws and all Nigerians are welcome in the SW but terrorists, bandits, killers and unhinged, bloodlusting and bloodthirsty psychopaths and sociopaths are not.”
“Buhari do your job and stop the killings. Stop turning a blind eye simply because they come from your tribe. Stop brushing this under the carpet and treating them with kid gloves simply because they are your footsoldiers. Stop protecting them and stop encouraging them,” he added.
Akeredolu gets support from Ondo monarch, Olowo of Owo, Ajibade Ogunoye
Meanwhile, a monarch in Ondo State, Olowo of Owo, Ajibade Ogunoye, commended Akeredolu for asking herders to vacate all the forest reserves in the state.
“As the chief security officer of the State, the governor could not sit, watch and fold his arms while the citizens are being kidnapped at will by bandits.
“The security of lives and properties of the people of the state are important to the government, therefore, all efforts of the government in this regard must be supported by all”, he said in a statement.
Yoruba elders back Akeredolu on quit notice to herders living in forests
Speaking under a group, Coalition of Oduduwa Elders,the Yoruba elders warned the Presidency to steer clear of governance issues in Ondo or any other state in the country, saying the governor’s action was the best in protecting the lives of Ondo citizens because,according to them, the federal government which has exclusive control of conventional security architecture in the country, had failed to protect the people.
Regretting that Ondo forests have become launching pads for herdsmen, the elders noted that the “herdsmen coming into the state are doing so not for the purpose of grazing, but killing and destroying property.”
“The marauders, who usually come without cattle, engage in kidnappings,attacking communities in guerrilla style of warfare, killings, burn houses and destroying other property! Should the governor fold his hands and look the other way while his people are being massively kidnapped, killed and their property destroyed? No,these have to stop now. And the only way to stop it is what Chief Akeredolu has done,” the group said in a statement.
The Yoruba elders regretted that the leadership of Fulani cattle rearers which they noted,had failed to call criminals in their midst to order,was quick not only to condemn the governor’s action but also call on the federal government to immediately act with a view to stopping the governor carrying out his quit notice order.
“We had expected Miyeti Allah and all the Fulani bodies to rise against the criminal elements in their midst who are bent on tarnishing their reputation, but instead they have surprisingly looked the other way until the governor came up with this measure to stop the ugly situation.
Former Kaduna Central Senator, Shehu Sani faultes the quit notice
However, former Kaduna Central Senator Shehu Sani, in a post on his Facebook wrote: “My Dear Governor Akeredolu, I’m quiet aware of the security challenges facing your state. I appreciate your efforts, but it’s outrightly and completely wrong to ask all cattle herders to leave Ondo forests.
“The sins of a criminal few should not affect the law abiding and peaceful ones who have the right to live and move freely in all parts of our country.
“Efforts must continue to be made to deal with those who breach the law,while and respecting and protecting the rights of the innocent.”