By James Sowole
Protesters comprising commercial vehicle drivers, farmers, forest guards and traders, Friday trooped to the streets of Akure, the Ondo State capital, condemning the position of the presidency on the order of the Ondo State Government asking unregistered herdsmen to vacate state forest reserves.
The protesters, who were led by the Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), carried placards of various inscriptions, to express their support for the order issued by Governor Okuwarotimi Akeredolu.
The protest came just as traditional rulers in the state, expressed their support for the order of Akeredolu against unregistered herders operating in the state forest reserves.
The traditional rulers at the end of their emergency meeting, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to show the world that he is the father of all irrespective of ethnic affiliation
The protesters, who were chanting solidarity songs, said the state could no longer tolerate incessant abduction of their members by some criminals parading themselves as herders.
Some of the placards read: “Kudos to Aketi. Criminals must be ejected from our forest reserves; Enough is Enough, We Will Not Tolerate Criminals Any Longer in Our Forest Reserves; Aketi Should Back Order with State Laws.”
The forest guards lamented that some of them had been kidnapped and that they were the one that contributed money to pay ransom before they were released.
The farmers also lamented that the indiscrimate grazing on their farmlands, had sent many of them out of farms as they were scared of going to their farms.
They said said if the current state of insecurity was not quickly checked, it might lead to famine in the state.
Speaking on behalf of commercial vehicle drivers, the NURTW chairman, Jacob Adebo, aka Idajo, said his members were operating with fears.
He said many of his members had been kidnapped and released after payment of ransom.
Addressing journalists at the end of the traditional rulers meeting, the Olukare of Ikare, Oba Akadiri Momoh, urged the President to advise his aides to always exercise restraints on issues that border on the current insecurity in the country.
The monarchs condemned what they called deliberate attempt by some persons to twist the governor’s clear directive in respect of government forest reserves
However, the traditional ruler said Fulanis just like any other ethnic groups in Nigeria, are free to live and conduct their legitimate businesses anywhere in the country including Ondo state.
He said the Fulanis must respect the private property rights of the people.
Olukare urged Governors in the South West region, the South West caucus in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly to use constitutional means to rein in the rampaging criminals masquerading as herdsmen across the region.
He said: “It is to be noted that even the indigenes of Ondo State do not have a right to use the forest reserves without due authorisation.”