Three senior lawyers and groups, including Afenifere and the Yoruba Council of Elders, on Wednesday criticised the Presidency over its stand on the Ondo State Government’s ultimatum to herdsmen in the state’s forest reserves.
But the Northern Elders’ Forum directed the Fulani herdsmen to disregard the notice to quit forest reserves in the state.
Also on Wednesday, the Ondo State Government said it did not tell herdsmen to leave the state or its forests, but forest reserves, which had become hideouts of kidnappers.
Recall that the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, had on Monday ordered herdsmen to leave the state’s forest reserves within seven days.
The Presidency, in a statement by the President’s Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, faulted the governor, saying he should not act outside his constitutional powers.In a telephone interview with The PUNCH, the Secretary General of the YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, described as unconstitutional, the reaction of the Presidency.Olajide said, “Any Nigerian is free to live in any part of the country in as much as he lives in peace with the people without engaging in violence or constituting a threat to the survival and wellbeing of others. But how do you explain a situation where you get to a place and engage in crime and criminality, killing and maiming of innocent people and plundering their farmlands and the likes?
Commending Akeredolu, he stated, “The Presidency has turned a deaf ear to the calls of the people and governors of the South-West for protection from these herders in the last five years.“The herders in Yoruba land are Fulani. Therefore the issue of ethnicising crime does not arise. The Federal Government ought to do the needful by calling security officers to act and enforce orders issued by the lawful authority in the state.”
The pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, in a statement titled, ‘Ondo Forests: Fulani Presidency Again,’ issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said the Muhammadu Buhari regime had again shown its non-pretence as representing the Fulani interests above other tribes in the country.
Afenifere stated, “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 the non-pretence by this regime that it represents only the Fulani interests against those of Yoruba, Igbo, Junkun, Ijaw and other tribes in Nigeria.
“What has this government done to assure our people that it can protect our lives with the open murders of Mrs Funke Olakunri, the Olufon of Ifon and the Deputy Registrar of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, among many others?”On its part, the the Coalition of Oduduwa Elders, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Dr. Tunde Aremu and National Secretary, Folake Ajasin, supported the quit notice given by the governor to Fulani herdsmen to leave forest reserves.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi, Adams said the Presidency had failed to address the security situation across the country.He stated, “Garba Shehu/Presidency apparently doesn’t know the meaning of forest reserves. It’s not accessible except to authorised personnel/loggers. Apart from the place being a place for valued cash trees, it also means a haven of safety for protected animals against poachers. The herdsmen living in the forests are not only unauthorised, they also would likely cut down trees to make fires and must also kill animals for food.
Also farmers in Ondo State supported the governor and asked him to back up his ultimatum with a law.
The Chairman of the Ondo State Agricultural Commodities’ Association, Mr Gbenga Obaweya, in an interview with The PUNCH, urged the governor to sponsor a grazing bill at the state House of Assembly to tackle the security challenges in the state.