Confusion over Akeredolu’s Orders, as NEF Asks Herdsmen to Disregard Governor’s Directive
There has been confusion over Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu’s order to herdsmen in his domain, as conflicting reactions have continued trail his Monday directives.
But the state government has been saying it did not ask anyone, the herdsmen inclusive, to quit the state. Rather, its order was to the herdsmen to leave its forest reserves, which it said was an exclusive area that accommodates economic trees, and has been turned into criminals’ hideout.
Notwithstanding, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has asked herdsmen in Ondo State not to leave the forest reserves that the state governor gave them a week to quit, saying Akeredolu’s order was provocative.
NEF director of publicity and advocacy, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday that “It has … become necessary to speak at this stage and offer advice before mischief makers capitalize on the issue to compound our existing challenges around security and co-existence.
“Governor Akeredolu is a senior lawyer who should know that the constitution does not give him the power to deny any Nigerian the right to live where he chooses if he does not break the law in the process.
“His duty to protect and improve the security of citizens and all people in Ondo State cannot be challenged. Indeed, all governors need more support to improve their responses to security challenges which citizens face. Nonetheless, no Nigerian has the power to take punitive action against citizens on political grounds.
“The forum urges the Fulani community in Ondo to stay where they are and continue to be law-abiding. They should collaborate with all legitimate authorities to police their communities against criminal elements, but they should resist moves to be labelled entirely as criminals.”
Recall that the Ondo State governor had on Monday ordered herdsmen to leave the state’s forest reserves within seven days, and the presidency, in a statement by the president’s special assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, faulted the governor, saying he should not act outside his constitutional powers.
The Ondo State government however said its directive was clear and should not be misconstrued. It explained that it did not tell herdsmen to leave the state or its forests, but the forest reserves that have been turned to hideouts of kidnappers.
The state government insisted on Wednesday that the federal government’s opposition to the notice to quit the reserves would not change the state government’s position.
Akeredolu’s special adviser on security matters, Jimoh Dojumo, said the government was serious about the issue, adding that the governor’s order was in the interest of the residents of the state, including the herdsmen.
Ondo State commissioner for information and orientation, Donald Ojogo stated on the Channels Television programme on Wednesday that “Insecurity is a national issue and no part of the country is exempted. Now kidnapping and banditry are now becoming a pandemic so to say. If actually Garba Shehu issued the statement, then he owes the nation explanation to let people know why he must take up the fight of criminal elements. I do not believe that with his pedigree, he might want to offer himself as spokesperson for the people masquerading as herdsmen and committing crimes.
“Government did not say Fulani people should leave Ondo State. Some herdsmen have occupied the forest reserves and in this case, the forest reserves are different from the natural forests. Government has not come out to say that the Fulani should vacate all the forests in Ondo State. The focus here is the forest reserves.
“There are specific purposes that forest reserves have been earmarked for. There are thousands of hectares of land in the thick forest. Unfortunately, some of those criminal elements have gone to mingle with Fulani herdsmen who have occupied portions of these forest reserves and settlements. In any case, anytime victims are kidnapped, they take them into the depth of forest reserves, and security agencies have had enough evidence to show that victims are taken into the forests.
“So what government is trying to do is to clear the mess by a way of regulating the activities of herdsmen and not only Fulani people are herdsmen. The governor was explicit in his directive.”
In the same vein, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, has said the federal government and all those opposing Akeredolu’s directive do not appear to know the meaning of forest reserves.
In a statement by his special assistant on media, Kehinde Aderemi, Adams said “Garba Shehu/Presidency apparently doesn’t know the meaning of forest reserves. It’s not accessible except to authorised personnel/loggers. Apart from the place being a place for valued cash trees, it also means a haven of safety for protected animals against poachers. The herdsmen living in the forests are not only unauthorised, they also would likely cut down trees to make fires and must also kill animals for food.”
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