…order to quit forests expires tomorrow
…Lists herders’ sins
…‘Presidency not in clear picture of destruction of farmers’ crops, killings, kidnappings’
By Dayo Johnson, Akure Senior Special Adviser (Security Matters) to Ondo State Governor, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, is a retired top police chief.
In this interview, Dojumo speaks on security issues in the state and the seven-day quit notice issued to herdsmen in the state’s government forest reserves by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu last Monday and the angry reaction from the Presidency overruling the eviction notice.
The governor had given the ultimatum during a meeting with leaders of Hausa-Fulani and Ebira communities in the state. He said the activities of herdsmen had long been causing a threat to security in Ondo. Akeredolu also shared his statement on his official Twitter handle.
“Today 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”, the governor said. “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”.
But the Presidency about 24 hours later said Akeredolu “will be the least expected to unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of infiltration of the forests by criminals”. It added, “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 security adviser to Akeredolu says the quit notice stays regardless of the Presidency’s position.
Government is apparently disturbed by the spate of insecurity across Ondo…
The insecurity in Ondo State is part of the aftermath of #EndSARS protests and there is no area in the state that is left out. This is more than disturbing. We should put more efforts in place to ensure that what happened in the state in the past is not allowed to happen again.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu issued an executive order asking herdsmen to vacate government forest reserves. Why this order?
The order became necessary having considered all options to check incessant kidnapping, killing of the people and destruction of farm crops.
The state government had a meeting with the leadership of herdsmen in the state on how to check the activities of armed herdsmen kidnapping and killing people in Ondo before the order was issued by the governor. The security situation in the state is becoming unbearable, everyone of us living in the state knows that it’s becoming unbearable to the fact that after the #EndSARS saga, there was not a day that one to two people will not kidnapped in the state.
This situation is embarrassing, disturbing even to the fact that our Amotekun Corps is overstretched and the best thing is to look for a way out which led to the invitation of Fulani and Hausa leaders where we rubbed minds together to address this issue of insecurity. It was there we discovered that we needed to go ahead for solution. We discovered during the meeting that most of the destruction of farmers’ crops occurs during night grazing.
Then the governor deemed it to ban it. Another major fact is this issue of underage grazing. Can you imagine a 7-8 years old boy taking charge, grazing about 200 cows? These Fulani herdsmen keep on destroying people’s properties and they are doing this recklessly. These Fulani herdsmen will uproot casava and gather it in a particular place for cows to eat.
At Arimogija in Ose Local Government Area of the state, they uprooted the cassava of a particular farmer and gathered it for their cows to feed on. And information got to this man and what the man did was to move along with his two sons to the bush and when they got there, they challenged these Fulani herdsmen and what the Fulani herdsmen did was to fire gun on this man.
They killed this man alongside his son while the elder son escaped with machete cuts. What can we say about that? This is what we have been experiencing every day. The latest now is that you will see the Fulani rearing their cows on the expressway. Is that not dangerous to road users? And when this order came, we had to get the order straight and there are two ways to it. The governor ordered that people should move out of that place if you’re not there for illegal reason. If you’re in the bush carrying arms doing nothing in the forest, forest reserves belong to government and before you can operate in forest reserves, you have to get permit and that is what we are saying. Those perpetrating the heinous act are using the forest to cover their crimes.
When government met with the leadership of the herders, did you discuss the security implications of their actions?
It is very unfortunate that we found ourselves in this situation because all along we have been addressing the issues. We have written to them, invited and dialogued with them, meeting their leaders. Even there was a time we held some workshop with them where the National President of Miyetti Allah was invited to Ondo State just to find a way of addressing this problem and we agreed on some points.
He even promised us that this thing will stop, but we discovered that these issues are getting out of hand. Many people have been killed and kidnapped; one of our first class traditional rulers was recently killed by these Fulani herdsmen on his way back to his domain. All these are callous.
The Presidency has kicked against the quit notice given to herdsmen in the state government forest reserves. Isn’t this a problem?
I want to believe that President Muhammadu Buhari is not in the picture of what is happening here because if he had the clear picture of what is happening in Ondo State, there wouldn’t have been any negative reaction. We voted for him before he became the President and he is there to protect us and not to destroy us.
What should the people of the state expect within the next seven days?
Before the seven days ultimatum expires, we believe that things will improve.
Do you envisage that this order may be disobeyed and if disobeyed what’s government next line of action?
This is a security matter and it is not for public consumption but I want to advise those operating within the forest legally to register with the state government. Let them disobey and we know how to carry out our directive, it is not when we start speaking on the pages of newspapers before we know what to do and we are not even out for confrontation.
The truth is that if they still want to remain in the forest, let them come and register, we want to know the people occupying our forest. If people want to live in your house, you should know them and identify them, so we want to know those occupying our forest and no illegal occupants.
lf they are ready to cooperate, no problem, the order is that they should quit the forest or register with the state government and whoever that wants to farm or do any other business within the forest, there must be means of identification and we must know their origin. Government will not rescind the order. We are determined put an end to kidnapping and killings in the state. Those perpetrating the heinous act are using the forest to cover their crimes and we stressed the need to flush out criminals from the forest.