On Monday South-west state governors namely Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) will meet with leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria leaders in Akure.
The subject of he discourse revolves around the seven-day ultimatum issued by Mr Akeredolu on herders, directing them to vacate forest reserves within Ondo State.
The meeting is also expected to address a series of clashes between cattle herders and farmers in relation to killings and kidnappings in the six Southwest states.
One of the major challenges facing Nigerians is insecurity and in Southwest Nigeria, there have been re-occurring cases of killings and kidnappings for ransom on highways and farmlands.
Many victims who regained their freedom after abduction have also in the past alleged Fulani herders as the perpetrators of their predicament.
While some have narrated sorrowful tales and their experiences with the abductors, there are many others who did not return home alive to speak on their ordeals.
One of the prominent Nigerians who shared his tales in captivity is Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Government, who was abducted by armed herders in his farm located in Akure, the capital of Ondo state.
He did not regain his freedom despite efforts by police to rescue him until he paid N5 million ransom.
Unlike Mr Falae who lived to share his experience, Olufunke Olakurin, a daughter of the Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, could not. She was killed on her way to Lagos by suspected herdsmen along Ore road in Ondo State.
Following the attestation of the failure of the current security system at bringing about the needed safety of lives and property as contained in. Chapter II, Section 14(2b) of the Nigerian Constitution, south-west governors launched a security outfit to tackle the problem of insecurity within the region.
Amotekun and what comes after
The primary responsibility of the government is to ensure the security and welfare of citizens, hence, the six states were convinced that with the creation of Operation Amotekun, the unending terror from suspected herders would be contained.
While Amotekun operatives are working hard to curb insecurity, many individuals are still being abducted and killed either on the highways or in the forests.
As the matter gets worse daily, it threatens the unity of Nigeria and shows that there is an urgent need to examine and work on the security architecture of the country.
But as efforts to tackle the menace continue, two states’ governors, Messrs Akeredolu and Makinde expressed different positions on the security of citizens of their states.
Last Monday, Mr Akeredolu echoed the opinions of the residents of Ondo State by issuing a seven-day ultimatum on herders to vacate all forest reserves in the state.
He argued that the quit notice was to help expose criminals using the forests as a hideout to perpetrate killings and kidnappings.
“We have taken major steps at addressing the root cause of kidnapping, in particular, and other nefarious activities detailed and documented in security reports, the press and debriefings from victims of kidnap cases in Ondo State.”
“These unfortunate incidents are traceable to the activities of some bad elements masquerading as herdsmen. These felons have turned our forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.”
“As the Chief Law and Security Officer of the State, it is my constitutional obligation to do everything lawful to protect the lives and property of all residents of the State”, Mr Akeredolu said then.
But in a swift response, the presidency in a statement signed by Garba Shehu, the special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on media and publicity, tackled Mr Akeredolu.
Mr Shehu 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”.
Makinde opposes Akeredolu
Unlike Mr Akeredolu, governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, said herders in any state have the constitutional right to live in any part of the country. He maintained that issuance of ultimatum on herders to vacate any place is an assault on them.
“We cannot overlook the fact that there have indeed been instances that cause concern. The fragile peace between the herdsmen and farmers in Oke-Ogun is being threatened,” he said.
“Individuals who are not authorised are going around chasing people from their homes and causing mayhem. This assault on residents of Oyo state is not the way to further the Yoruba cause.”
“Let me state that we shall not sit back and watch anyone make any law-abiding resident of Oyo State feel unsafe in their homes, farms, or business places. We are aware of some people circulating flyers and giving people ultimatums to leave their land. This is totally unacceptable and will not be condoned.”
Who is correct between the two governors?
The comments by the two governors have triggered controversies on social media. While some persons claimed that Mr Akeredolu has the constitutional power to issue quit notice to anyone in the state, others claimed that the Ondo State governor was wrong.
Many Nigerians also threw their weight behind Mr Makinde for opposing Mr Akeredolu. Those who subscribed to Mr Makinde’s position argued that section 41(1) of the 1999 Constitution provides that “every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom”.
Others said there could be a derogation to these rights in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons as provided by Section 45 of the constitution.
A Lagos based lawyer, Ademola Owolabi told PREMIUM TIMES that the right of Nigerians to live anywhere is constitutional but must also respect the right of those owning the areas.
“First, the right of Nigerians to live anywhere is constitutional but must respect the right of those owning the areas and secondly, that right is subject to either leasing or buying or lawful occupation. No one can go to Kano and move into the Emir’s Palace. That will be criminal trespass. The forest reserve is not available for Nigerians to occupy except as permitted by the Ondo State Government.”
“Thirdly, the Federal Government should rethink its sickening support for brigandage visited on other Nigerians and the traumas of herdsmen incursion and violence. It is not right that the complaints of Nigerians from Zamfara to Enugu, Benue, Oyo and everywhere is treated with such dismissive posturing by the federal government”, he noted.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, a legal practitioner, Festus Ogun said the Court of Appeal in Kalu v. Federal Republic of Nigeria ruled that the rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement, guaranteed respectively by Sections 35 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution, are not absolute.
“The court held that the right to freedom of movement may be deprived under a law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society imposing restrictions. Therefore, no argument of constitutional or human rights breach can be maintained.”
Another lawyer, Akintayo Shittu, noted that Section 1 of the Land Use Act, 1978, entrusted and administered the use of land for the benefit of citizens on the governor of the state.
He explained that the act in Section 12 also gives the governor the power to grant licence or permits to anyone entering or using a land.
“Apart from granting licence to users, Mr Akeredolu has the power according to the act in section 12(5) to cancel any such licence if it fails to comply with the conditions of the licence.”
The lawyer also said the Forestry Law of Western State and National Forestry Policy, 2006 forbids using of forest reserve without obtaining permit from the state government.
“The forest reserves belong to state government and it right for any government to forbid encroachers. No reasonable governor would allow criminals use the place as a hideout. Since the aim of the governor was to secure lives and properties, it is correct.”
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