As the ultimatum issued by the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to herdsmen in the state’s forest reserves, continues to spark outrage, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) have disagreed.
While the YCE commended Mr Akeredolu for the directive, the NEF urged herders in the state not to leave their locations and also resist moves to be labelled as criminals.
The state governor on Monday gave herders in the state seven days to vacate all forest reserves in order to check the security challenges affecting the state.
On Tuesday, Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant on media and publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, said the Ondo government should rather dialogue with the leadership of the Fulani communities in the state rather than quit notice issued on them.
But Ondo State Commissioner of Information, Donald Ojogo, argued that presidential spokesperson’s response “reeks of emotional attachment to the herdsmen”.
He insisted that there is no going back on the ultimatum given to the herders as the state government reeled out procedure for registration of any herder who is still interested in grazing in Ondo.
Quit notice ‘long overdue’
A South-West Socio-cultural organisation, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) applauded Mr Akeredolu for asking herders in forest reserves to vacate the state.
The group, in a statement by its secretary-general, Kunle Olajide, said the vacation order should have come earlier because “there’s no law in Nigeria that allows anybody to invade another state or local government, or another town, and destroy their resources and the people would fold their arms.”
“Since 2015, these herders have been prodding our forest reserves, destroying our farms, killing our people, raping our women and kidnapping for ransom and we have complained over and over again but it appears as if the Federal Government and security agencies turned a deaf ear to our complaints.
“The governors are supposed to be the chief security officers of their states and in any case, the land belongs to the states under the Land Use Act. It is under the control of the state governor. The state governor cannot be expected to fold his arms and watch his people being killed and kidnapped for ransoms.
The group further said “it (is) unfortunate that we are running a unitary system of government and the paradox in our 1999 constitution is the fact that governors are chief security officers but all the security agencies report to the Federal Government.
“But nevertheless, we have the judiciary; the third arm of government is supposed to be independent. We are sure, for the embarrassment issued from the Presidency, Governor Akeredolu, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, will know how to react.”
‘Ignore quit notice’
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) in a statement by its spokesperson, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, urged the herders to ignore the ultimatum given by Mr Akeredolu.
“Northern Elders Forum is shocked at reports that Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, is asking a Fulani community to leave its lawful location, in addition to other restrictions on activities of Fulani people who have lived in the State for a long period,” the group said.
“No Nigerian has the power to take punitive action against citizens on political grounds. The forum believes that the action of the governor is provocative and unhelpful.”
“If there are criminal elements among the Fulani who live in the state, the governor should take appropriate steps to identify them and deal with them. Similarly, the Fulani do not enjoy legal immunity in any part of Nigeria.
“The Fulani are subject to all laws and regulations and must respect the communities with which they live and interact. What is dangerous and unacceptable is to profile and demonize the Fulani and treat him outside the laws of the land like all other Nigerians.
“The Fulani community in Ondo state should stay put where they are and continue to be law-abiding. We call on Governor Akeredolu to rescind his order on the Fulani, or clarify his position in the event that he is misunderstood. For the avoidance of doubt, no Fulani anywhere in Nigeria will accept unfair and illegal treatment just for being Fulani,” the statement read.
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