…Akeredolu can’t tell herders to leave Ondo — Presidency

…My ultimatum stands — Ondo gov

By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon & Johnbosco Agbakwuru

THE Presidency and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, yesterday, headed for a showdown over the ultimatum given by the latter to Fulani herders to vacate the forest reserves in the state.

While the Presidency said the governor had no constitutional powers to ask anybody to leave the state or any part of the state, the governor insisted, yesterday, that his seven days ultimatum stays.

In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity in Abuja, the Presidency maintained that asking the herders to leave could set off a chain of events, which the constitution anticipated and tried to guard against.

The statement read: “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 the 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 criminals.

“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 name plates, 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.”

My ultimatum stands—Ondo gov

But  Ondo State government, yesterday, vowed not to rescind the ultimatum issued to herdsmen to vacate its forest reserves within seven days

Special Adviser to the Governor   on Security Matters, Jimoh Dojumo, said the state government was determined to put an end to kidnappings and killings in the state.

Dojumo said: “Those perpetrating the heinous act are using the forest to cover up their crimes.  There is, therefore,  need to flush out the criminals from the forest.”

While he declined to give details of when the state government would effect the directive, the Special Adviser said: “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 it out, 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 register, we want to know the people occupying our forests.

“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.

“If they are ready to cooperate, no problem, the order  is that they should quit the forest or register with the state government and whoever  wants to farm or do  any other business within the forest, there must be means of identification and we must  know their  origin.”

Meanwhile, Governor Akeredolu has ordered the clearing of bushes on the highways across the 18 local government areas of the state to allow a proper view of the highway.

The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mrs. Lola Fagbemi, who disclosed this, said the bushes will be cleared some 30 meters away from both sides of the roads.

Fagbemi said: “The bush will be cleared about 30-40 meters away from the road. This will give proper  view  while on the highway and we are commencing work as from Wednesday.”

Our members are not kidnappers—Ondo MACBAN Chairman

But the state chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Mallam Garuba Bello said: “We support what Governor Akeredolu has said; he did not say Fulani should leave the state, but he wants the criminals to leave the state. We need peace in the state and the governor’s order will bring peace.

“Our  members  are not  involved in kidnapping; our members are very responsible. Anybody that kidnaps or does criminal activities should be dealt with.”

Afenifere hails Akeredolu’s decision

Also, Secretary-General of  Afenifere, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, said Governor Akeredolu has taken the right step because “illegal people have virtually taken over our lands in the state.”

Arogbofa  added:  “Akeredolu is on the right path, especially if the occupation of those places or any place in the state is inimical to the development of the state. Akeredolu, as the Chief Security officer of the state, can exercise this power.

“He has shown to be a true Nigerian when he said that any of the herdsmen who wants to stay in any part of the state must first  register.

“The rate of kidnapping in this state is very embarrassing to the extent that one cannot leave one’s house without serious prayers to return home safely. Illegal people have virtually taken over our  lands in the state. I must confess that the governor has felt concerned.

“Some of our traditional rulers had given lands to people without authority, to people who they cannot trace and who are alleged to be suspicious characters, people straining  from  Niger Republic without legal rights.

“It is also disturbing that there are kidnappers in these forests and hideout in our lands.”

Asked if the vacation order was not an infringement on the rights of the herdsmen, Arogbofa said: “I think Akeredolu has made it clear  that the  people  are occupying these lands illegally and he has given a caveat that anybody who wants to stay in the forest should register. Unless they want to tell us that they are people perpetrating these evils or knew about it.

“I think the governor is being kind  in giving them a week, they have occupied this place  illegally and they are killing. Those who are kicking against the order should be made to answer  for all these killings. Akeredolu is very understanding in giving them a whole week, and not just a day.”

Olowo justifies vacation order

On his part, the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye, said the order would rid the state of criminals and make it safe for the people to live in.

In a statement by his media aide, Sam Adewale, the traditional ruler said: “The governor has done well in this regard.

“As the chief security officer of the state, the governor cannot not sit, watch and fold his arms while the citizens are being kidnapped at will by bandits.

“The security of lives and properties of the people of the  state  is important to government. Therefore, all efforts of the government in this regard must be supported by all.”

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