By Nwafor Sunday
Following the seven days ultimatum given to herdsmen to ‘vacate the forests’ of Ondo state, by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, and of course a riposte from the Presidency faulting his order, a former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Wednesday, condemned Gabar Shehu’s intervention, noting that quit notice cannot be given to law-abiding citizens in any part of Nigeria, but can be given to those that kill, steal and seek to destroy the lives of others.
Akeredolu had last two days ago, ordered herdsmen to leave Ondo forest, stating categorically that the ‘unfortunate incidents happening in his state are traceable to the activities of some bad elements masquerading as herdsmen’.
He said: “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. In light of the foregoing, the following orders are hereby issued: “1. All Forest Reserves in the State are to be vacated by herdsmen within the next 7 days with effect from today, Monday 18th January, 2021. “2. Night-grazing is banned with immediate effect because most farm destruction takes place at night. “3. Movement of cattle within cities and highways is prohibited. “4. Under-aged grazing of cattle is outlawed.”
Reacting to his order, Presidency through Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, asked Akeredolu not to act outside the constitution while tackling crime in his state.
He said: “The Presidency has been keenly monitoring events occurring in Ondo State and the “orders” by the government of the state, “asking herders to vacate the forests in seven days.”
“What is clearly emerging, is a lack of consistency in messaging which in turn leads to various contradictions regarding accuracy and the intent behind the message. There is little to be said other than to call for restraint on both sides and urge the state government and the leadership of the Fulani communities to continue their dialogue for a good understanding that will bring to an urgent end, the nightmarish security challenges facing the state.
“Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, a seasoned lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and indeed, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, 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 criminal.
“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 (IPOB) 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.
“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.”
However, Gabar Shehu’s statement did not go down well with Femi, who via his facebook handle, condemned his statement, urging South Western Governors to do the same.
His words: “The assertion by presidential spokesman Mallam Shehu Garba that a bunch of murderous thugs, psychopathic vagabonds, barbaric rapists, merciless ritualists and vicious killers have a right to reside in the forests of Ondo and the South West and continue to slaughter and rob our people is insulting, provocative, asinine and absurd.
“Quit notices cannot be given to law-abiding citizens in any part of Nigeria and I have always opposed such notices. However they can and must be given to those that kill, steal and seek to destroy the lives of others.
“Murderous terrorists and bloodthirsty and evil men that hide in the forest to ambush, kidnap, kill and destroy innocent and hardworking men and women have no constitutional rights.
“It is the duty of Government to not only flush them out from whichever hole they are hiding but also to dispatch them to hell where they belong. Akeredolu has done and said the right thing and I urge every single South Western Governor to do the same.
“Fulanis, Hausas, Igbos, Ijaws and ALL Nigerians are welcome in the South West but terrorists, bandits, killers and unhinged, blood lusting and bloodthirsty psychopaths and sociopaths are not.
“President Buhari, your job is to and stop the killings. Stop turning a blind eye simply because they came from your tribe. Stop brushing this under the carpet and stop treating them with kids glove. Stop protecting them and stop encouraging them.
“Stop sacrificing the people of the South West on the altar of solidarity with the herdsmen and Miyetti Allah. Treat ALL Nigerians equal and defend them all”.