The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has asked Fulani herders in Ondo State to disregard Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s seven-day ultimatum given to them to vacate forest reserves in the state.
Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, a spokesman for the forum in a statement on Wednesday described the governor’s order as provocative and unhelpful.
Akeredolu had on Monday asked herdsmen to leave the state’s forest reserves within seven days.
Apart from ejecting the herdsmen, the governor also banned underage grazing, night grazing, and movement of cattle within the cities and highways.
He had said, “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.
“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. In light of the foregoing, the following orders are hereby issued: All forest reserves in the state are to be vacated by herdsmen within the next seven days with effect from today, Monday, January 18, 2021.”
But Baba-Ahmed said the Fulani would not accept unfair treatment, challenging the governor to isolate criminals and treat them as such.
He said, “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.
“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 demonise 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.”