The Ondo State Government has maintained its earlier stands that herdsmen must obey the seven-day ultimatum issued by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu asking them to vacate the forest reserves in the state.
Naija News recalls that Akeredolu had ordered herdsmen in the state to vacate the forest reserves within a period of seven days counting from Monday, 18th January.
The Governor also banned night grazing as well as highway and under-age grazing in the state.
But the presidency in a statement by President Muhammadu Buhari’s media assistant, Garba Shehu, rejected Akeredolu’s ultimatum to herdsmen.
“It will be the least expected to unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals.
“If this were to be the case, rights groups will be right in expressing worries that the action could set off a chain of events which the makers of our constitution foresaw and tried to guard against.,” Garba Shehu said.
Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, claimed that Buhari did not endorse the statement released by Garba Shehu.
He asked the presidential aide to explain to Nigerians why he has taken up the fight of criminal elements who masquerade as herdsmen.
Ojogo said: “One thing is certain, President Muhammadu Buhari by his antecedents, by his nationalistic posture and by his patriotism that he is known for, may not have directed that statement. I am almost persuaded to think that Garba Shehu didn’t issue that statement because that would have been a very dangerous one for the unity of this country. I am waiting to confirm and if it is true, then, he may have miscommunicated properly to the people of Nigeria.”
He added that if it is confirmed that the statement was made by Garba Shehu, “it would mean that certain persons in the presidency, certain officials in the presidency are actually out to create problem for President Muhammadu Buhari. We must appreciate the efforts of this president in his fight against insecurity across this country. Insecurity is becoming a national issue; no part of the country is insulated from crisis”.
“If Garba Shehu indeed issued that statement, then, he owes the people of this country a great deal of explanation to let people know why he must take up the fight of criminal elements. I do not believe by his pedigree that he might want to offer himself as the spokesperson for people masquerading as herdsmen and committing crimes. I don’t want to believe he has offered himself as the spokesperson for criminal elements who are operating under herdsmen,” he added.
Explaining, the Commissioner pointed out that the governors’ order was for herdsmen to vacate Onod forest reserves and not all forests in the state.
“Let us separate these two things: Government did not say all the Fulani herdsmen to leave Ondo State; that is not correct. Government has not come out to say that Fulani men should vacate all the forests of Ondo State.
“The attention is on the forest reserves. These forest reserves are monuments of the state and treasures of the people of the South-West right from time immemorial. They have been earmarked for beauty and bound diversities.“