The presidency has tackled the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, over his order asking all herders to vacate forest reserves in the state within seven days.
Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant to the President Muhammadu Buhari on media and publicity in a statement he signed on Tuesday encouraged the state government to tackle all forms of criminality but not breach the rights of herders in the state.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Akeredolu on Monday gave an ultimatum to herders to vacate all forests while meeting with leaders of Hausa/Fulani and Ebira communities at his office in Alagabaka, Akure, the state capital.
He cited how the activities of the herders have long been threatening the security of the state.
The state then mandated those who wish to carry on with their cattle-rearing business to register with appropriate authorities within the next seven days or risk evacuation from the state.
In reaction to this, Mr Shehu said ”rather the ultimatum and contradiction that may follow the order, the state government and the leadership of the Fulani communities in Ondo state should dialogue for a good understanding that will bring to an urgent end, the nightmarish security challenges facing the state”.
He said Mr Akeredolu “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.”
The presidency argued that ”insecurity is not alien to any group, the language they speak, their geographical location or their faith”.
“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 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,” he said.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on the move by the governor, a Lagos-based lawyer, Ademola Owolabi, said Mr Akeredolu has the power issue vacation notice on the herders.
“He (Akeredolu) has the power and every right to issue the order. He asked herdsmen to vacate the place first because the reserve is the state government asset and the right of Nigeria to live anywhere is not absolute because the security of lives and properties of citizens is also the duty of the governor to ensure.”
Reacting to the presidency’s position on the order, the lawyer simply said: ”The law is on the side of the governor to issue such directive. The order by Akeredolu is simply an executive order that is apt, if not too late.”
For years, there have been debates around federalism and restructuring, which would allow state governors control state police that would aid then in curbing rising insecurity across the nation.
PREMIUM TIMES has repeatedly reported how killings and kidnappings for ransom have become rampant on the nation’s highways and farms.
We reported the abduction of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olu Falae, by armed herders on his farm in Akure. Despite efforts by police to free him, the chieftain still paid N5 million to regain his freedom.
Olufunke Olakurin, the daughter of the Afenifere chieftain, Reuben Fasoranti, was also shot and killed while on her way to Lagos by suspected herdsmen along Ore road.
All these led to the creation of Operation Amotekun by the South-west governors, a security outfit that is not completely independent of the existing security structure but supports the police and others.
Akeredolu gets more support
Meanwhile, a monarch in Ondo State, Olowo of Owo, Ajibade Ogunoye, has commended Mr Akeredolu for asking herders to vacate all the forest reserves in the state.
He said in a statement that the action is accurate in combating the security challenges facing 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.”
Sunday Igboho, an advocate of Yoruba nation who resides in Oyo State, also urged Governor Seyi Makinde to make a similar pronouncement in the state to eradicate the killings and kidnapping of farmers in Ibarapa axis of the state.
Meanwhile, the chief press secretary to Mr Akeredolu, Segun Ajiboye could not be reached for a reaction on the comment by the presidency as of the time of filing this report.
He did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES calls and text messages seeking Mr Akeredolu’s position on issues raised by the presidency.
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