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The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has asked herdsmen to stay put in Ondo State because the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu does not have the right to send them away from the community.
Akeredolu had on Monday issued a 7-day vacation order to unregistered herdsmen who graze their cows along the state’s forest reserves.
The governor said he gave the directive owing to the rising spate of kidnappings and insurgency in the state,
Reacting to the directive on Wednesday, the NEF said through a statement issued by its spokesperson, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed that the directive of the state governor is provocative and unhelpful.
It said lawful citizens of Nigeria have the right to live in wherever they may please and if there are criminal elements among the Fulanis who live in the state, the governor should identify them and deal with them.
“Northern Elders Forum is shocked at reports that Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, is asking a Fulani community to leave its lawful location, in addition to other restrictions on activities of Fulani people who have lived in the State for a long period,” Baba-Ahmed said.
“Governor Akeredolu is a senior lawyer who should know that the constitution does not give him the power to deny any Nigerian the right to live where he chooses if he does not break the law in the process. His duty to protect and improve the security of citizens and all people in Ondo State cannot be challenged.
“No Nigerian has the power to take punitive action against citizens on political grounds. The forum believes that the action of the governor is provocative and unhelpful.
“If there are criminal elements among the Fulani who live in the state, the governor should take appropriate steps to identify them and deal with them. Similarly, the Fulani do not enjoy legal immunity in any part of Nigeria.
“The Fulani are subject to all laws and regulations and must respect the communities with which they live and interact. What is dangerous and unacceptable is to profile and demonize the Fulani and treat him outside the laws of the land like all other Nigerians.
“The Fulani community in Ondo state should stay put where they are and continue to be law-abiding.
“We call on Governor Akeredolu to rescind his order on the Fulani, or clarify his position in the event that he is misunderstood. For the avoidance of doubt, no Fulani anywhere in Nigeria will accept unfair and illegal treatment just for being Fulani.”
The directive by Akeredolu has stoked up controversy owing to its intention and likely consequences.the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu
In a statement on Tuesday, the presidency through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu defended the right of the herders to dwell anywhere in the country, saying the governor cannot “unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals”.
But reacting to Garba Shehu’s statement on Wednesday, the Ondo State govenment accused the presidency of backing criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen.
And it insisted herders must obey the seven-day quit order by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu for them to leave the forest reserves in the state.