The Ondo State Government and the Presidency have disagreed over Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s order asking herdsmen to leave the Ondo State Government’s forest reserves.
Apart from ejecting the herdsmen, Governor Akeredolu 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.
But Secretary General of the Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Usman Baba-Ngelzerma, had claimed that the association had not been formally informed.
The Presidency’s intervention on Tuesday, however, riled the Ondo State Government, which accused it of taking sides with the herdsmen with its statement which it described as a “brazen display of emotional attachments” and which it added was “very inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.”
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had in a statement on Tuesday said the President called for restraint on the side of the state government and the Fulani communities.
Shehu, in the statement titled, ‘In tackling crime, Ondo State Government will not act outside the constitution,’ stated that the Presidency also called on both sides to continue their dialogue.
The statement reads partly, “Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, a seasoned lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and indeed, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, 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.
“If this were to be the case, rights groups will be right in expressing worries that the action could set off a chain of events which the makers of our constitution foresaw and tried to guard against.
“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 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.”
But in a swift reaction, the Ondo State Government through its 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 a 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.
“It (statement) states in a breath that the governor fights crime with passion while it is prevaricating on the atrocities. The question is, are the herdsmen who are perpetrating murder, kidnapping and robbery more important than the government and even the Federal Government in this case? Ethnic nationality and activism on the part of anyone hiding under the Presidency or federal government is an ill wind.”
Ojogo had earlier declared that there was no going back on the governor’s order asking herdsmen to vacate all the forest reserves in the state.
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Ojogo had said, “The governor’s directive except they are telling the world that Miyetti Allah is above every law in the land.”
Similarly, Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matter, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, said, “I want to advise those operating within the forest legally to register with the state government. The truth is that if they (herdsmen) still want to remain in the forests; let them come and register, we want to know the people occupying our forests.”
Also, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural association, Afenifere, faulted MACBAN’s statement, saying its members must obey the governor’s order.
Secretary General of the Afenifere, Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa, pointed out that the governor’s order would go a long way in tackling insecurity in the state
He said, “The Miyetti Allah should not complain about the order, unless they want to give the impression that they support the criminal activities being carried out by some herdsmen in the state.
“If they entered into the forest illegally, the government has the right to eject them. It was from the forest that we heard that those that killed the Ifon monarch came from.”
Olowo of Owoland, Ondo State, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye, also commended Akeredolu for the order.
Chief Press Secretary to the Owo monarch, Mr Sam Adewale, in a statement quoted the traditional ruler as saying, “ As the Chief Security Officer of the state, the governor cannot fold his arms while the citizens are being kidnapped at will by bandits.”
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