Following the seven-day ultimatum given to herders by governor Akeredolu of Ondo State on Monday for herders to leave the forests reserver of the State, citing the rising state of insecurity, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has told herders in Ondo State to remain in their locations and reject any move to label them as criminals.
Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, spokesman of the forum, in a statement on Wednesday, asked the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to stop the ultimatum given to herders to vacate forest reserves in the State.
Baba-Ahmed noted that the governor’s order was provocative and unhelpful.
The Governor in a statement said it has been observed that bad elements had turned the forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.
The Northern Elders Forum in a reaction to the order, explained that the Fulani would not accept unfair treatment, asking the Governor to separate criminals and treat them as such.
The forums statement reads: “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.
“The governor’s duty is to protect and improve the security of citizens and all people in Ondo State cannot be challenged.
“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 statement noted that 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.
The forum noted that the Fulani were subject to all laws and regulations and must respect the communities with which they live and interact, adding that what is dangerous and unacceptable is to profile and demonize the Fulani and treat him outside the laws of the land like all other Nigerians.
It said that the Fulani community in Ondo state should stay put where they are and continue to be law-abiding.
It called on Governor Akeredolu to rescind his order on the Fulani, or clarify his position in the event that he is misunderstood, adding, “for the avoidance of doubt, no Fulani anywhere in Nigeria will accept unfair and illegal treatment just for being Fulani.”