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Ondo State, Governor Akeredolu and the Fulani Herdsmen.

January 21, 2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
Written by Koboju Etariemi

“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.

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:

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.”

Above is the full statement of the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu as regards the recent spate of incessant killings and nefarious activities that have plagued his state. Insecurity has become a huge issue in the South West, particularly in Ondo State.

Not everything in Nigeria is a tribal war. While I understand that tribe has become a major divisive line, the safeguard of lives such as this must not be painted in that light. We need to delink terrorism and crimes from ethnicity, geographical origins and religion—to isolate the criminals who use this interchange of arguments to hinder law enforcement efforts as the only way to deal effectively with them.

Olufunke Olakurin, the daughter of the Afenifere chieftain, Reuben Fasoranti, was also shot and killed while on her way to Lagos by suspected herdsmen along Ore road. The Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olu Falae, was abducted by armed herders on his farm in Akure. Despite efforts by police to free him, the chieftain still paid N5 million ransom. He is the Chief Security Officer of his State and this grants him the power to ensure and safeguard the lives and property of the members of that state. It seemed like the right thing to do. However, he has come fiery criticism. 

The Northern Elders Forum, The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and even the Presidency have all disagreed with the decision, tagging the decision as tribal discrimination.

While insecurity is not alien to any group, the language they speak, their geographical location or their faith, we need to understand that if a tribe is living in a particular place and have been known to wreak havoc consistently over a period of time, the right thing is to sanction them. No responsible government will stand and watch that happen, tribe irrespective. 

Even though the constitution permits every Nigerian to move or reside in any part of the country, if a migrant becomes violent or engages in acts of terrorism as some of the herdsmen have done, the governor, being the Chief Security Officer of the State, has the power to ask them to leave. They can only stay so far as they are peaceful and comply with the laws of the state. 

The governor has every power to protect his people, both the indigenes and every other person that is resident in his state. Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution empowers the governor to restrict the right of movement and association to the extent of protecting the right and freedom of other persons.

He asked herdsmen to vacate the place first because the reserve is the state government asset. The ownership of the state land is vested in the hands of the State Government first. Plus, the right to live in Nigeria to live anywhere is not absolute because the security of lives and properties of citizens is also the duty of the governor to ensure. Besides, he never asked them to leave the state. He only asked the unregistered herders to vacate the Forests.

In addition to registering Herders, another solution I would proffer that he can put it before his State House of Assembly to come up with anti-grazing law, which will be operational in that state.

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