The controversy over the quite notice to herdsmen took a worsening dimension yesterday as Ondo state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, insisted that herders must comply with the state’s vacation order and leave the government forest reserves.
Akeredolu maintained that the vacation order remains the only solution to the crisis, noting that the reserves across the state belong to Ondo state government.
The governor’s stance on the vacation order came just as cattle breeders under the aegis of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) initiated moves to douse the tension arising from the situation.
National president of MACBAN, Abdullahi Kiruwa, told NEWSALERTAFRICA that they are meeting with the governors of Ondo and Oyo states today to find a way out of the crisis.
The Ondo state governor had last Monday ordered the Fulani herdsmen illegally occupying government reserves in the state to vacate the forest.
He gave the order during an interactive meeting with the leadership of the Hausa/Fulani and Ebira communities in the state at the Cocoa Conference Hall of the governor’s office, popularly called Alagabaka.
Rationalising his action, Akeredolu said, “As the chief law and security officer of the State, it is my constitutional obligation to do everything lawful to protect the lives, and property of all residents of the state.”
The order had attracted stern reaction from the presidency and other Northern organisations, cautioning against victimisation of herdsmen.
But in spite of the uproar caused by the order, Akeredolu maintained yesterday that the order became necessary having considered all options to check incessant kidnappings, killings of the people and destruction of farm crops.
Speaking through his senior special adviser on security matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, Akeredolu said his government wants the herdsmen “to vacate the forest reserves,” adding that “those government forests are reserved for special purposes.”
When contacted by NEWSALERTAFRICA, the national president of MACBAN, Abdullahi Kiruwa, said he was in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, for a meeting with governors of Ondo and Oyo states.
“I will only talk after the meeting with the two governors today. I am in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, for meeting with governors of Ondo and Oyo states,” Kiruwa said.
Corroborating chairman of MACBAN’s position, Alhaji Gabar Garba said the association will meet with Akeredolu and his Oyo state counterpart, Seyi Makinde, today in Ibadan over the matter.
He said the association and the government will meet today to discuss the way out on the crisis.
Garba stated that he was not going to say much about the decision of the association until the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting with Governor Akeredolu.
Middle Belt Forum Backs Ondo Governor
The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) has backed Governor Akeredolu on the quit notice he issued herders to vacate the state’s forest reserves.
The group also expressed worry at the turn of events in the South West and the order issued by the Inspector-general of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for the arrest of Sunday Adeyemo, AKA Igboho, over his alleged role in the violence that took place at the weekend in Oyo state.
It said arresting Igboho at this time will escalate the existing tension and cause a fury that may lead to dreadful uncertainties for the nation’s future.
National president of the forum, Dr Pogu Bitrus, while stating the forum’s total support for ridding Ondo state of bandits and criminal elements as contained in the ultimatum handed down on criminal herders by the governor, said as the chief security officer of Ondo state, Akeredolu, is entitled to protect citizens that are now under constant siege by criminal elements.
Meanwhile, the Pan Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere has urged the federal government to desist from treating one region special from others, describing the presidency’s position on the vacation order of the Ondo state governor to herdsmen in the government forest reserve as “pure arrogance and incitement to anarchy.”
The national publicity secretary of the organisation, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said the state government should be appealed to for an alternative option for the herdsmen in the state instead of being threatened.
Specifically, Odumakin disclosed that herdsmen don’t have any business in the government forest reserve areas.
ACF Warns Against Reprisal Attack
On their part, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and other groups have proffered solution to the lingering crisis, warning that reprisal attack is not the best option.
The national publicity secretary of the apex northern sociocultural group, Mr Emmanuel Yawe, said the solution to the crisis is for Nigerians of all ethnic, religious and political backgrounds to be patriotic and law abiding.
He further appealed to people in the region to be calm and avoid the urge of taking laws into their hands because of what is happening in Ondo and Oyo states.
He said ejecting anybody or a group of persons from a particular place on perceived crime is counterproductive.
According to him, rather than toeing the path that is against the law, supposed offenders should be tried in consonance with the laws of the land.
While stressing that nobody or race should be ejected from any part of Nigeria on ethnic backgrounds, ACF noted that people must not forget history in a hurry.
On its part, Miyetti Allah Kataul Hore said every Nigerian should be allowed to carry out their legitimate businesses in any part of the country without any form of intimidation as provided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The president of the body, Alhaji Abdullahi Bodejo, said, “Nobody can drive away any Nigerian from any part of Nigeria or prevent them from legitimately carrying out their businesses. The constitution permits Fulani to stay in any part of this country and equally have rights of grazing as long as it is not on anybody’s farm. The herders have the right to seek redress in law court against such order but must not take the laws into their hands.”
Also reacting, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) said they will meet over the development and shall come up with a definite position after considering a number of options.
Spokesperson of the group, Suleiman Abdullazeez, said, “We expected the attack from Ondo following Akeridolu’s directive. But now it is coming from Oyo. As a first step, we are considering recalling all Northern communities in the south back home safely before considering the next move.
“We however warn the instigators of this violence to note that the North certainly knows how to repay coin for coin. We certainly don’t consider it an isolated incident but linked to a grand design to destabilise Nigeria and in particular bring the North to its knees by targeting a major component of its population, the Fulani and their livestock assets.”
Also speaking, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) said the quit notice by Akeredolu and subsequent attack and destruction of property in Oyo State was not only worrisome but disturbing.
According to the group’s president, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, the constitution of Nigeria guarantees every Nigerian to live in any part of the country and free to engage in any legitimate business of his or her choice.
He said, “The governor of Ondo State, being a learned person, is expected to know better.”
Saraki, Alao-Akala, Others Call For Dialogue
Meanwhile, the immediate past president of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call all stakeholders to a roundtable in order to address the issue of insecurity in the country.
Saraki said it is important for Buhari to rally all interests and everybody at the leadership levels to a roundtable in order to discuss and find appropriate solutions.
He stated: “Let me reiterate my earlier suggestion that president Buhari should call all relevant politicians and stakeholders together – former heads of states, retired and serving security chiefs, present and former leaders of various arms of government, traditional rulers with relevant experience, experienced youth with the technological know-how to solve security problems and even international civil servants of Nigerian origin who can help.
“Everybody must be made to contribute ideas on how to save our country from insecurity, disunity, and invasion by criminals. Mr President, please, call everybody together and provide the much-needed leadership to solve the problem. This is a period that requires all hands to be on deck.
“This is not the time to talk of APC or PDP. It is a time for all to work for Nigeria. This is a problem for all and should be solved by all.
“I want to also make a passionate plea to my brothers, Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, both of whom are experienced legislators, to provide the far-reaching legislative intervention that will help the executive arm in the search for peace. The situation is getting worse by the day. Insecurity has become the order of the day and it is fueling disunity and criminal activities.
“Let me also call on all politicians who are looking towards 2023 to take over power to start pondering on what type of Nigeria they will have to administer post-2023 if the current situation continues. It is better for all of us to join hands together now to quell the raging fire of disunity, insecurity, and work to mend fences. I know some politicians will not be able to contribute ideas if they are not called upon to do so by those who currently have governmental responsibility to do so.
“We must all intervene as patriots and forget our personal interests. For the sake of our forebears who handed over this country to us, we must work hard to make things better so that when we meet them, we will have a good account to give that we improved on what was handed over to us”.
In the same vein, former governors of Oyo and Ekiti states, Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala and Ayodele Fayose have also waded into the crisis created by the eviction order given to herdsmen in Oyo State by an activist and business man, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho.
Alao-Akala who is also chairman, Elders Advisory council of the All Progressives Congress (APC), called for a council of state meeting aimed at finding solutions to the security challenges in the state.
He advised Governor Seyi Makinde to without delay convene the meeting to brainstorm on the security challenges facing the state.
He said, “Governor Seyi Makinde needs help in the area of maintaining law and order in the polity hence he should not shy away from that fact. He needs to sit down and brainstorm with people who have been there before him to share from their wealth of experience on how certain things are done especially in the area of security.”
On his part, Ayo Fayose urged Makinde to rather use dialogue and persuasion instead of escalating tensions in his own state by calling for the arrest of Sunday Adeyemo.
Meanwhile, the state police command has appealed for calm, saying the situation has been brought under control, just as it assured residents of protection of lives and property.
The commands public relations officer, Fadeyi Olugbenga, a chief superintendent of police, said an investigation into the arson and the breach of peace in Igangan had commenced.
Also, the Nigerian Islamic human rights organization, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has called for dialogue and wider consultation.
MURIC’s director, Professor Ishaq Akintola in a statement yesterday advised the federal government to apply caution in handling the fragile situation.
The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) B-Zone, while condemning the attack on Fulani communities in Oyo State led by an activist and business man, Sunday Igboho, appealed to everyone concerned and affected one way or the other to be calm and avoid any retaliation whatsoever.
The Muslim students, in a statement signed by Qaasim B. Odedeji; Amir/zonal coordinator, Alhaji Abdul Jalil Abdur Razaq; zonal secretary and Engr. Bashir Momoh, public relations officer, called on the Nigerian government at all levels to put an end to farm invasion, kidnapping, murder and all other atrocities as experienced in Igangan community to be specific and the nation at large.