Uproar As Akeredolu Asks Herdsmen To Leave Ondo

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  • Says bad elements masquerading as herders
  • That’s not what we discussed with gov – Miyetti Allah
  • ‘His directives affront on Nigerian Constitution’
  • Alaafin assures Fulani of safety, tackles Amotekun

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu yesterday directed all herdsmen to vacate the Ondo forest reserves within the next seven days. The ultimatum will lapse on Sunday, January 24.

In his verified Twitter handle, Akeredolu also banned night-grazing and movement of cattle within the cities and highways in Ondo.

Some analysts and legal practitioners who spoke to Daily Trust described the statement by the Ondo governor as contradictory, insisting that he was indirectly asking herders to leave the state, which is against the Nigerian Constitution.

However, others supported the governor saying he has the right to ask questionable characters to leave.

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But the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Ondo said what the governor posted on his Twitter handle was different from what they discussed during their meeting with him yesterday.

Its chairman, Alhaji Bello Garba, told one of our correspondents that they held a meeting with the governor during which he admonished them to work with security agencies in exposing criminals.

“We are not aware of any order from the governor directing our people to vacate Ondo forest reserves because during our face-to-face meeting with him yesterday, he did not say anything like that,” he said.

According to the Miyetti Allah leader, “The governor summoned a meeting with us, the Fulani leaders and those representing farmers to discuss security issues. He said farmers and herders live in the forests and that is where criminals live.

“He said we should expose criminals who are kidnapping people for ransom. The governor also asked us to ask our people to desist from night grazing or moving our cattle on the highway. This is all I know,” Alhaji Garba said.

Also, one of the national leaders of Miyetti Allah said the directive by Akeredolu will not stand because it was a constitutional matter.

The official, who does not want his name mentioned, said the federal government must speak out before the issue degenerates to something else.

The expulsion came less than a week after a leading thug in Oyo State, Sunday Igboho, asked the Fulani to leave the State.

However, efforts to get clarification from those speaking on behalf of the Ondo governor on the vacation order were not successful.

The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, said he cannot talk about it adding that the governor is a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

Spokesman for the governor, Segun Ajiboye did not pick his calls. When contacted to comment on the matter, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu, said, “When last I checked, there is still freedom of movement in the constitution. Unless there is a law authorizing this directive, if it is disobeyed, how will it be enforced?

“We are a country of laws bound by the constitution and people should desist from making statements that cannot be justified by the law or the constitution. I don’t have the facts and I am only commenting purely on the law and the rights in the 1999 Constitution,” he said.

What Akeredolu said

The Ondo governor yesterday attributed kidnapping and other nefarious acts in his state to the activities of “some bad elements masquerading as herdsmen.”

While saying the decision to ask them to leave was taken based on security documents, Akeredolu said the resolution was a decisive action that will restore peace and order in the state.

According to him, “Today we have taken major steps at addressing the root cause of kidnapping, in particular, and other nefarious activities detailed and documented in security reports, the press and debriefings from victims of kidnap cases in Ondo State.

“These unfortunate incidents are traceable to the activities of some bad elements masquerading as herdsmen. These felons have turned our forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.”

In light of the foregoing, Governor Akeredolu highlighted the following orders:

  1. All forest reserves in the state are to be vacated by herdsmen within the next 7 days with effect from today, Monday 18th January, 2021.
  2. Night-grazing is banned with immediate effect because most farm destruction takes place at night.
  3. Movement of cattle within cities and highways is prohibited.
  4. Under-aged grazing of cattle is outlawed.

“Our resolution to guarantee the safety of lives and property within the state shall remain utmost as security agencies have been directed to enforce the ban.

“In its usual magnanimity, our administration will give a grace period of seven days for those who wish to carry on with their cattle-rearing business to register with appropriate authorities,” the governor said.

Daily Trust reports that the governor did not give more details on how herders would register, and whether after they register, they could access the forest reserves.

It was also not clear whether the Ondo State Government was planning to establish ranches.

Gov has duty to safeguard lives but… – Lawyers

Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) lauded the governor’s directive to insecurity in the state, noting that the major aim of the government is to ensure security and welfare of the people.

“There is nothing unconstitutional about the directive. I can’t say I am privy to the reason behind the directive, but I think it has to do with the fact that the forests are infested with criminals and kidnappers. So, let the innocent ones come out so that the government can clear the forest of the evil ones. Thereafter, the innocent ones can go back,” he said.

Also responding, Paul Ananaba (SAN) said it was a delicate decision for the state government to make because on one hand, as the elected governor of the state, he has a duty to protect the lives and property of the citizens, and on another hand, he has no right to “chase Nigerians out of any part of the country.”

A top constitutional lawyer, who asked not to be named, said while the governor’s action may be seen as controversial, he said under the Land Use Act, governors have the locus standi to give directives on the use of lands in their territory.

“This is why you see governors giving orders for a raid on criminal hideouts and in fact, ordering the demolition of such places,” he said.

However, another senior lawyer, Aminu Gadanya, who is also the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Kano State, said the provision of the Land Use Act can never supersede that of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of movement.

He said it is a settled matter of law that where a provision of an Act is in conflict with a provision of the Constitution, that of the Constitution will take pre-eminence.

“By the provision of Chapter 4, Section 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he (Akeredolu) does not have the power to issue that ultimatum. It is a breach of their (herdsmen) constitutional right. Because by the provision of that section of the Constitution, they (herdsmen) can move freely and live at any place they wish. He cannot curtail that freedom,” he said.

He said even when the governor was acting on security reports, as stated in this instance, “I am sure they (criminal elements) are not the majority because there are surely those Fulani herdsmen that have been living there for several years. In my personal opinion, he cannot out rightly say he has given the entire herdsmen ultimatum to leave that forest.”

On his part, Barrister Lawan Ishaq said, “The excuse that some governors in the South West are advancing that Fulani are behind most kidnappings in that area is a lame excuse just to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it.

“While I am not excusing all Fulani herdsmen as innocent – surely like any other people, there are bad eggs – saying they are solely behind kidnappings and other nefarious criminal activities is insincere. Banning them from any section of their own country is a very dangerous precedence, which shouldn’t be allowed to go scot-free.”

Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), on his part, said, “Maybe people want Akeredolu to go and negotiate with bandits who are also Boko Haram like what the governors of Zamfara and Kaduna did.”

A political analyst and lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Bayero University, Kano (BUK), Dr Aminu Hayatu, told our correspondent that while it is not a new thing when talking about settlers/indigene problems, “it will be uncivil for any part of the country to make attempts to give an ultimatum to anybody to leave a particular place.”

He said as, against arbitrary orders, governors should always refer the matter to the judiciary so that “a position would be taken as to what is the position of law on such matters of contention.”

Daily Trust recalled that in a similar controversial move, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, banned open grazing in the state in 2017.

The law was signed on May 22, 2017, and came into effect in November of that year, generating heated debate in the polity.

Alaafin assures Fulani of safety

Elsewhere, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, has assured Fulani communities in Oyo State of safety just as he berated the activities of the Amotekun Corps saying “they are doing the job God doesn’t like.”

The Alaafin stated this while receiving the leadership of the Fulani herdsmen in his palace on Sunday.

Daily Trust reports that there has been controversy about Amotekun following allegations of abuse of human rights by some members of the corps in Oyo State.

The issues surrounding Amotekun’s modus operandi appear more disturbing in Oyo State, where the operatives are said to be wielding dangerous weapons, including guns, during their operations.

Reacting to the disturbing trend and the attack on a Fulani settlement in Ibarapa Central Local Government Area of the state, Alaafin said, “A lot of people in Yorubaland do not know that Fulani are different from one another: there are those into trading, and also those settlers that are into cattle rearing and also those that roam about from Niger, Burkina Faso; this set also trouble the Fulani in our midst, they are a problem to all of us including the Fulani.

“The word Fulani is like saying Yoruba, if an Ekiti man does something wrong, they will say Yoruba.  If Lagos man does something, they will say Yoruba,” Alaafin said.

The royal father also criticised the mode of operations of Amotekun Corps saying “there is no way they can operate without the cooperation of other security agencies.

“Amotekun cannot work successfully without the DSS, Police, VGN and including that of Miyetti Allah,” he said.

The royal father also said that the Amotekun operatives have been killing police asking further, “When did you hear that VGN of Fulani kill police?

“The Fulani amidst us can identify whoever is coming to do evil because we have them among us that can differentiate the Fulani from Kano and other parts of the country.”

He added, “Let your mind be at peace. I will talk to the governor on your behalf because he wants to know the truth.

“Amotekun that are going about with gun are doing the job not given to them, Amotekun are doing the job God doesn’t like. Because they are in uniform does not mean they can terrorise the community by collecting money from citizens, but I’ve not heard that the Fulani VGN or Miyetti Allah living among us ever collected money from anybody,” he said.

Source: Daily Trust

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