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, Wednesday, drew supportive reactions from Ohanaeze Ndigbo; Pan-Niger-Delta Forum, PANDEF; the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB; Afenifere; Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, and some senior lawyers, SANs.
The Presidency’s declaration further drew the reactions of the Aare-Ona-Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams and the Middle Belt Forum.
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.
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But the state’s Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, explained in a statement on Wednesday 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.
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 the 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, they would 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 S-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, Bourkina 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?
“The Presidency or its spokesperson is in the erroneous belief that security is a tribal issue. Governor Akeredolu is not speaking for himself but for the people of Ondo and by extension people in the six states of the South-West zone.
“Governor Akeredolu has been highly traumatized and embarrassed by the senseless killings, rapes and banditry caused by these herders.
“Now, our people are frightened to go to their farms because these criminals would watch until their maize grows up and then take their cattle there to destroy it. We don’t want to believe that they are encouraging these things to happen so that the South-West will be a consumer nation for agricultural products because it is the North that feels free to bring agricultural products to the South-West.
“We, in YCE, want to tell them that we are solidly behind Governor Akeredolu. It’s not a thing that any government should encourage. If people want to trade, it shouldn’t be in the thick forest of another state killing people.Akeredolu is on the right course.”
We support Akeredolu— Afenifere
Also, Afenifere, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said though it was not surprised by the Presidency’s intervention in the matter, it will stand by Governor Akeredolu’s ultimatum.
The statement, titled: ‘Ondo forests: Fulani Presidency Again, read: “The intervention by what we mistakenly call the Federal Government of Nigeria on behalf of marauding Fulani in Ondo State against the lawful government in that state did not come to Afenifere as a surprise as it is in line with non-pretence by this regime that it represents only Fulani interests against those of Yoruba, Igbo, Junkun, Ijaw and other tribes in Nigeria.
“That the Federal Government and Garba Shehu, could only hear Ondo State when Governor Akeredolu was very loud and clear about herders to vacate forest reserves in the state is symptomatic that this Government has a serious problem with hearing the rest of us when the issue involves its anointed Fulani.
“The criminals have caused untold hardships in Ondo State and other Yoruba towns and cities in recent time and only an irresponsible government that wants to behave like our Federal Government that will continue to fold its arms.
“Are Ondo Forest Reserves under Ondo State Government or the Federal Government and Miyetti Allah?
‘’We agree with the Ondo State Government that the insensibility of Garba Shehu violates the corporate existence of Nigeria.
“All true- born Yoruba should stand behind Governor Akeredolu in these trying times.”
Presidency’s statement not in order— PANDEF
The Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, however, took the Presidency to the cleaners for castigating Governor Akeredolu over the ultimatum handed to criminal herdsmen to vacate forest reserves in the state.
Speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ken Robinson, PANDEF said: “It is most unfortunate that a presidential spokesman has slumped to become the mouthpiece of herdsmen.
“This clearly pushes the envelope on the arrogance and nepotist penchant of certain officials of the Buhari administration.
“It is disturbing that a legitimate order by a governor against a group of people who have been ‘illegally and forcefully’ occupying the lands of Ondo State is being questioned by a presidential aide.
“Is it not bad enough that this administration has been unable to take reasonable action against these herdsmen, for their violent crimes, across the country?”
Buhari’s actions, preference for Fulani– Ohanaeze
On its part, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said President Buhari is the president of all Nigerians and not Fulani but noted that some of his actions indicate preference for the Fulani.
Chief Everest Ozonweke, special adviser on Special Duties to Ohanaeze President-General, Professor George Obiozor, said Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, took the right steps to ensure security in his state and should be commended.
His words: ‘’The primary duty of government at all levels is the protection of lives of citizens. What Ondo State Governor did is acting towards the protection of the lives and properties of Ondo citizens. His statement should not be misconstrued.
President Buhari is not the president of Fulani. He is the president of everybody.’’
FG tolerating excesses of herdsmen— M-Belt Forum
On his part, the National President of MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, accused the Federal Government of tolerating the excesses of armed herdsmen in the country because it is pro-Fulani.
Dr. Bitrus told Vanguard in Makurdi that the posture of the government was responsible for the behaviour of Fulani herders in the country.
Bitrus said: “These things are happening because of the posture of President. His appointments, his behaviour and that of this government are pro-herdsmen.
“Our people have been killed severally. When it happened in Benue remember, so many Benue farmers were killed, what President Buhari said was that the Benue people should learn to live with their neighbours rather than condemn the killings.
“Up till now, despite the killings on the Plateau and other places, the Fulani herdsmen are never apprehended.
“And then, strangely, if Fulani herders do it to a people, it is not a crime, but if the people say they are fighting back, it becomes a crime. So, double standards are being played in this country, in this government and by the President.
“So the government and people of Ondo have the right to defend themselves and take actions to protect their lives and property if the Fulani are unruly and are found with weapons.”
Fulani using herdsmen from across Sahel to conquer southern lands– IPOB
Reacting to the development, Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, in a statement through Comrade Emma Powerful, accused the Fulani ethnic nationality of trying to take southern lands.
His words: “Is it not clear now to all and sundry, especially my Yoruba brethren that Fulani grand stratagem is to use Fulani herdsmen terrorists from all across the Sahel to conquer our ancestral lands in the entire South, thereby turning the whole of Nigeria into an almighty Fulani caliphate as IPOB has been warning for years?
“If Amotekun fails to drive away this Fulani army of darkness from Yoruba forests, as ESN is now gallantly doing in the East, the whole of Yoruba land or what is left of it after the loss of Ilorin to the caliphate will be lost to the Fulani conquistadors forever.”
Akeredolu’s action not unconstitutional—SANs
Throwing their weight behind the ultimatum, some Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, insisted the ultimatum was not unconstitutional, disagreeing with ACF and NEF.
A constitutional lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Albeny, SAN, said: “The constitution permits every Nigerian to move or reside in any part of the country.
“However, if a migrant becomes violent or engages in acts of terrorism as some of the herdsmen have done, the governor, being the Chief Security Officer of the State, has the power to ask them to leave.”
Also speaking, Mr. Paul Ananaba, SAN, said: “There is freedom of movement in Nigeria, but that freedom is not absolute.
“I do not see what is wrong with the governor taking steps to protect citizens in his state. He did not say so outside Ondo.
“The Federal Government indeed ought to have supported the governor rather than antagonising him. This is because the duty of government is to protect lives and properties.”
On his part, Mr. Dayo Akinlaja, SAN, said: “The governor is the Chief Security Officer of the state and he has the responsibility and binding duty to ensure that the state is secured.
“I do not see anything the governor has done that is beyond his powers. The whole idea is to ensure that the forests are kept safe.
“If the Presidency is doing what is expected of it, I do not see why there will be a need to flush the forests.”
“We are talking about security and it should be the business of every government.
“If the presidency made everywhere secured, the directive from the governor would not have been issued.”
Akeredolu’s order on herdsmen constitutional, says Adegboruwa
On his part, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, insisted that the presidency cannot fault Akeredolu for ordering herders to vacate the forest reserves in the state.
He said: “I salute the courage of the governor. He displayed rare statesmanship and courage. I think it is a lesson for all governors to take hold of their territory and safeguard the lives and properties of people.”