- Warns: counter directive on quit notice to criminal elements in Ondo forests danger to Nigeria’s Unity
By Chuks Okocha
Ripples created by the directive to herdsmen to vacate Ondo State forest reserves took a new dimension Wednesday as the State government said that some officials in the Presidency were out to create problems for President Muhammadu Buhari
Ondo State governor Rotimi Akeredolu had asked criminal elements operating as herdsmen in the state to vacate the state government forest reserves within seven days.
But Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu had in a statement Tuesday said the directive was unconstitutional.
The state government queried why Shehu would issue a counter directives that the criminal elements amongst the herdsmen should not vacate the government forest reserves.
The Ondo State government asked Mallam Shehu to explain whose interest the presidency was representing in the fight against criminals masquerading as herdsmen in the state.
￼The state’s Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, who faulted the counter directive from the Presidency for the criminal herdsmen to vacate the government reserves in the state, said that he was not sure that the statement emanated from the Presidency, but later he asked Shehu to tell Nigerians where his interest lies.
Ojogu said, “One thing is certain, President Muhammad Buhari, by his antecedent, nationalistic posture and the patriotism he is known for, may not have ordered that statement.”
He expressed doubt that Shehu issued the said statement in the first place “because it would have been a dangerous one for the unity of this country.”
According to him. “If true, it would mean certain officials in the Presidency are actually out to create a problem for President Buhari. We must appreciate the effort of this President in his fight against insecurity across the country.
￼“If indeed he (Shehu) issued the statement, then Garba Shehu owes this nation a great deal of explanation to let people know why he must take up the fight of people masquerading as herdsmen to commit a crime.
“Ondo State government did not say herdsmen or the Fulani people should leave the state. That is not correct. It is those herdsmen who have occupied the forest reserves.
￼“These forests reserves are monuments and treasures of the people of the South-West. They have been earmarked for beauty and biodiversity; thousands of hectares of land.
“Some of these criminals elements have gone to mingle with the Fulani herdsmen who have occupied portions of these forest reserves as settlements.
“In any case, kidnap victims are taken into the deep forest reserves. And security agencies have enough evidence that these victims are taken there. So the government is trying to clear the mess by way of regulating the activities of herdsmen.
“And we should also know that it is not only Fulani people that are herdsmen. So I would be surprised if Miyetti Allah wants to appropriate the burden of criminality.”
Clarifying the directives of the state government. he said: “The governor’s directive is focused on forest reserves and not all forests, which would have been preposterous and ambiguous. But the governor was explicit and apt.
“These reserves have been converted to dens of kidnappers. In the narratives of kidnap victims lucky to regain freedom is this common trajectory. So what do you expect the government to do?
￼“The government was not elected to provide road and water only. The basic objective of the government and good governance is the security of lives and properties.
“This directive is not just in the interest of the people of Ondo State alone, but also in the interest of all residents including the Fulani. So it will be very suspicious if a particular ethnic group or some elements decide to appropriate this.
According to the Ondo state Commissioner, “This directive is directed at criminals hiding under herdsmen who are doing their legitimate business. And if these herdsmen who are doing their legitimate business are unable to weed out the criminals, it means something is wrong some where.”