By Seun Adeuyi
Herders in Ondo State have been told to remain in their locations and reject any move to label them as criminals.
Spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a statement on Wednesday, asked Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, to stop the ultimatum given to herders to vacate forest reserves in the State.
Baba-Ahmed said that Governor Akeredolu’s order was provocative and unhelpful.
It would be recalled that on Monday, the governor gave herders a seven-day ultimatum to leave the forests, citing the rising insecurity in the State.
Akeredolu observed that bad elements had turned the forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.
But, the NEF, while explaining that the Fulani would not accept unfair treatment, asked the Governor to separate criminals and treat them as such.
“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,” the Forum said.
The forum noted that the governor 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,” it added.
It observed that, “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 forum noted that the Fulani community in Ondo state should stay put where they are and continue to be law-abiding.
It urged the governor 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,” it added.