By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Clifford Ndujihe, Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Ola Ajayi, Peter Duru, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Luminous Jannamike
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s seven-day ultimatum to armed herdsmen to leave Ondo forests and comments that the Presidency is emotionally attached to Fulani herdsmen, yesterday drew the ire of the Northern Elders’ Forum, NEF, and the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, who urged him to rescind his quit order decision.
The Ondo State government was reacting to the Presidency’s declaration on Tuesday that the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, had no constitutional powers to ask anybody to leave any part of the country, following his order to unregistered herdsmen to quit forest reserves in the state.
But the state’s Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, explained in a statement yesterday that Governor Akeredolu did not ask Fulani to leave the state but unregistered herdsmen, wondering why the Buhari administration was emotionally attached to herdsmen in the country.
The Presidency’s declaration further drew the reactions of the Aare-Ona-Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams; the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE; the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo; the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and some Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, who all insisted that the Presidency cannot fault Akeredolu for ordering herders to vacate forest reserves in the state.
Nevertheless, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo,and the Pan-Niger-Delta Forum, PANDEF, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Afenifere, Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, and some senior lawyers supported the Ondo governor’s stance.
Emotional attachment to herdsmen
Ojogo, in the statement, faulted the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu for defending the herdsmen and castigating the state government on its directive.
He said: “Ondo State Government did not ask Fulani to leave the state. The governor said herdsmen who are unregistered should leave our forests.
“The statement from Garba Shehu is a brazen display of emotional attachment and it’s very inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.
“We need clearly defined actions on the part of the Federal Government to decimate the erroneous impression that the inspiration of these criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen is that of power. Our unity is threatened, no doubt.
“It (statement) states in a breath that the governor fights crime with passion while it is prevaricating on the atrocities.
“The question is, are the herdsmen who are perpetrating murder, kidnapping and robbery more important than government and even the Federal Government in this case?
“Ethnic nationality and activism on the part of anyone hiding under the Presidency or Federal Government is an ill wind.”
He has rights to order them out— Adams
Rising in defence of the state government, the Aare-Ona-Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Adams, said Governor Akeredolu has the right under the country’s constitution to give quit notice to illegal residents in the state’s forest reserves, saying it is the duty of the governor, as chief security officer of the state, to protect lives and property of residents in the state.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi, Aare Adams said the Presidency had failed to address the security situation across the country.
He said: “Garba Shehu and the Presidency apparently do not know the meaning of reserved forests. It’s not accessible except to authorized personnel/loggers.
“Apart from the place being a place for valued cash trees, it is also meant as a haven of safety for protected animals against poachers. The herdsmen living in the forests are not only unauthorized, but they would also likely cut down trees to make fires and kill animals for food.
“A reserve forest is not a place of residence for anyone, not even Ondo indigenes or farmers. It is most unfortunate that such a statement is coming directly from the Presidency, who according to the constitution, has the duty to protect the lives and property of citizens in the country now looking for ways to foil the good plans and intentions of the state government to get rid of bad elements masquerading as herders and pastoralists in the state.
“So, the governor’s decision is in the right direction and it is in the interest of the state.
“I am now using this opportunity to call on all Yoruba sons and daughters to support all the governors in the South-West in their fight against insurgency across the region.”
FG encouraging foreigners to unleash terror on South-West — YCE
Similarly, the Senior Elders Forum of the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, took a swipe at the Federal Government, accusing it of encouraging foreigners to unleash terror on the South-West.
Speaking through its former president, Chief Samuel Agbede, the YCE said: “These herders have killed several princes, regents, and lately a first-class traditional ruler in Yorubaland. What do they want Governor Akeredolu to do, to fold his arms and watch all these atrocities happening around him on daily basis?
“If the spokesperson for the Presidency is not sincere about security, those at the receiving end are already fed up with the insecurity in the nation, particularly in Ondo State.
“What has the Presidency got to gain by encouraging criminals to be in the thick forest, killing people? Just last Saturday, a deputy registrar was killed at Iwaraja in Osun State.
“It has been established that most of these criminals are foreigners from Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali. They encroach on us in our country and unleash terror.”
“Why then should the Presidency be encouraging them when it sees all these killings, kidnaps and rapes?”